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Plans to speed up rail services are put on ice.

Byline: David James

BRITAIN'S rail regulator has shelved plans aimed at speeding up South Wales train services.

Plans to improve Cardiff's commuter network and the back-up route between London and Cardiff have been put on ice by the Office of Rail Regulation. The cutbacks are part of pounds 2.4bn that Network Rail is being asked to cut from its plans to expand the network.

The Government said it would only fund an expansion of 22.5% by 2014 - less than the predicted growth of passenger numbers.

Simon Pickering, the Wales manager for watchdog Passenger Focus, said the decision was "disappointing".

He said: "It is disappointing the work isn't being taken forward."

He said the shelved upgrade to the diversionary route between South Wales and London when the Severn Tunnel is closed had been "important to Wales".

First Great Western said it would work with Network Rail to find other ways of funding the pounds 32m scheme, which would upgrade a 12-mile, single-track line in Gloucestershire.

A spokeswoman said: "We are obviously disappointed but we will continue to work with Network Rail and others to see if there are other ways in which this can be funded in the future."

In Cardiff, the regulator shelved two plans to upgrade the Valleys Lines network saying they were not "needed". The proposals were to spend a total of pounds 10m upgrading Cogan junction and speeding up the Ninian Park to Radyr Line.

In its report, which assesses Network Rail's priorities for the next five years, it said neither of the Cardiff proposals could be justified under its criteria.

In total, 19 schemes costing pounds 350m across the UK have been shelved and Network Rail has been told to make cost and efficiency savings to meet the remaining pounds 2.4bn funding shortfall over the next five years Network Rail had argued the schemes were needed to tackle future overcrowding and a spokeswoman said the organisation was still studying the report in detail.

The Office of Rail Regulation is providing pounds 26.7bn of funding for Network Rail from 2009 until 2014.

Among the work that is being funded are improvements to Queen Street station, Cardiff, and pounds 500m of work to Reading station that will increase the efficiency of trains between South Wales and London.

These schemes have been welcomed by passenger groups which said they would study the budget in detail to see if it fully met "passengers' aspirations".

david.james@mediawales.co.uk
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Words:413
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