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Coalition announces £9bn investment in rail

Over £9bn investment in the railways is to be announced by the Coalition, in a demonstration of unity following Tory rebellion over House of Lords reform.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg are to outline a series of investments to take place between 2014 and 2019, with £5bn to complete current schemes such as Crossrail and Thameslink.

Another £4.2bn will be spent on new projects, including electrification of the Great Western Main Line from London to Swansea, rather than just Cardiff; the whole of the so-called Northern Hub involving track and station upgrades across northern cities; electrification of the Midland Main Line between Bedford, the East Midlands and Sheffield; and upgrades to the East Coast Main Line from London to Leeds and Newcastle.

The East-West Rail link from Oxford and Aylesbury to Milton Keynes will also be reopened and rail links with airports will be improved.

Electrification from London to Cardiff was announced last March and is due to be completed in 2017. The decision to extend this project to Swansea follows years of campaigning and will cut 20 minutes from journey time as well as allowing longer 9-carriage trains to run.

Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said: “It shows to people who are thinking about investing in Wales that we are going to have a very modern transport system.”

Transport secretary Justine Greening said: “Investment on this scale, in every region of the country, shows how this coalition government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and faster railway network that drives jobs and growth.”

Cameron said that the Government was “committed to taking the long term decisions to deliver growth and jobs” and Clegg added that the investment would fund “the biggest expansion in railways in over 150 years”.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: “We welcome this investment, it was actually first announced under the last Labour government...but this won’t help jobs and growth now, as there's not going to be a penny spent until after 2014.”

And Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said: “What we need is investment in rail today not yet another political promise of jam tomorrow.”

The united front of Cameron and Clegg was challenged by the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, who suggested a split in the Coalition before 2015 was likely.

He said: “I think it would be logical and sensible for both parties to be able to present their separate vision to the public in time for the public to form a clear view before the election. Of course, it is always possible that that moment of separation could come sooner. It's very difficult to predict when that might be.”

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