In the recently announced rail investment plans by the coalition, Southampton has been marked as one of the locations for improvement, with a more efficient electrified line stretching all the way to parts of the West Midlands and Yorkshire planned. This has the potential to decrease passenger journey times for students returning or leaving home and also to decrease the significance of the “north/south divide”, according to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
The full £9.4 billion scheme is welcome news to passengers and business alike across the country who have been promised investment for some time. As well as improvements to passenger and freight corridors along the ‘spine’ of the country, major cities will see improvements to their capacity. In particular, the East Coast Main Line will benefit from quicker journey times and there will be a new £500m link from the Great Western Line to Heathrow. Although the proposed changes are unlikely to come into effect until the end of this government in 2015 – and are not expected to be finished until 2019 – many have spoken of their support for the plans.
Chris Huhne, the MP for Eastleigh, has welcomed the plans for electrification along the Southampton to Basingstoke line, and those working in the port industry believe it will also safeguard a number of jobs, with the capacity to dramatically improve freight transport, as well as investment allowing greater accessibility to the industrial hub of the North of England.
This overhead electrification will allow electric passenger and freight trains to run all the way down from the north and the Midlands to the port of Southampton, improving reliability, encouraging freight to move from the roads, reducing maintenance costs and cutting pollution.Chris HuhneMP for Eastleigh
Currently, the average journey to Sheffield takes approximately four hours, while Students from Manchester have on average four and a half hour journeys. With a large segment of this line planned to be electrified, it is conceivable that journey times could be cut by up to 10%. However, the cost of train travel may still deter people from regularly using the train.
With a return journey to Manchester – without railcards or discounts – currently costing close to £100 and one to Sheffield costing around the same, current students don’t look set to benefit immediately from the scheme, though future students at the University could benefit from greater links to industry across the country as plans are expected to come to completion in 2019.