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A comprehensive improvement of the track itself

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In the foreword to Electric All The Way, the 1974 information booklet about the completion of West Coast electrification north of Weaver Junction, British Rail chairman Richard Marsh remarked that the London to Glasgow journey time had been reduced by 100 minutes at a cost of £74 million (compare with the 30 minutes of the £50 billion HS2).

The 1974 upgrade had been completed at a cost within 3 per cent over the estimates made in 1968.

electric-all-the-way-booklet-richard-marsh-foreword-extract

[Foreword by Richard Marsh]

The extension of the electrification of the main line from Crewe to Glasgow marks another important stage in the continuing improvement of rail transport between England and Scotland. The project has involved a comprehensive improvement of the track itself, with complete resignalling, as well as the electrification of the line, so that this 400 miles long trunk route is now among the most modern in the World.

Bear in mind, too, that the train services have continued to run throughout the period of very substantial building and construction work. In round figures the rebuilding of 200 miles of route has cost £38 [million] (£200,000 a mile) and the electrification £36 [million]. There have been some small changes in the scope of the scheme, and substantial inflation but these factors apart, the whole of the work has been completed within 3 per cent over the estimates made in 1968.

Daytime journey times have been reduced substantially below those achieved before the project started – by 100 minutes between London and Glasgow, by 100 minutes between Birmingham and Glasgow, and by 60 minutes between Manchester / Liverpool and Glasgow — and frequency of service has been improved.

In the 1980s, British Rail obtained government funding to electrify the East Coast route to Edinburgh and Leeds. That ~£400 million project was also completed more or less within the anticipated budget and timescale — in fact, commissioning generally ran ahead of schedule.

In the mid 1990s, the government and the newly-privatised rail industry embarked on a project to upgrade the West Coast Main Line (‘PUG2’). It was intended was to deliver a 140 mph railway at a cost of around £2 billion. In 2008, it was announced that the de-scoped (no-140-mph) and re-named West Coast Route Modernisation had been ‘completed’, at a cost of something like £9.5 billion.

One might ask, why were the 1970s and 1980s BR main line modernisation projects so much more successful than the late-1990s West Coast scheme?

Project Cost (unadjusted) £m Glasgow London Journey time reduction (mins) Cost/minute (£m)
North of Weaver Junction upgrade (1974) 74 100 0.74
HS2 (2011 prices) 50,100 30 1670
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Written by beleben

August 29, 2014 at 9:17 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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