£450m goes towards digital signalling to improve rail reliability and £390m plugged into driverless cars, says Philip Hammond

Rebecca Smith
Hammond wants to up reliability on the nation's rail services
Hammond wants to up reliability on the nation's rail services (Source: Getty)

Amid his bumper infrastructure unveiling, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £450m to trial digital signalling technology on railways to improve reliability.

From 2018-19 to 2020-21 the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) will plug this investment into signalling technology, while £80m will be allocated to accelerate the roll-out of smart ticketing, including season tickets for commuters in the UK's major cities.

Hammond also announced £390m to build on the UK's "competitive advantage in low-emission vehicles and the development of connected autonomous vehicles". This includes £80m for ultra low emission vehicles charging infrastructure, £150m in support for low emission buses and taxis, £20m for the development of alternative aviation and heavy goods vehicles fuels.

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The government will offer 100 per cent first-year allowances to companies investing in charge-points for electric vehicles.

Jonathan Turner, strategic development manager at Hitachi Capital Motor Finance, said: "The government's grant scheme has so far been instrumental in encouraging increased purchase of electric vehicles, which not only reap benefits for the buyer who can save on petrol money, Vehicle Excise Duty and congestion charges, but are also hugely advantageous for the environment."

The government is also investing £5m in developing funding for the Midlands Rail Hub, a programme of rail upgrades in and around central Birmingham, which the government says could provide up to 10 additional trains per hour.

Digital Railway is the industry's plan for targeting digital systems to increase rail capacity and improve network rail performance.It wants to tackle the UK's "capacity crunch" by accelerating the digital modernisation of the tracks. More trains would run on existing tracks, helping to increase the impact of significant upgrades like HS2 and Crossrail.

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Network Rail's chief executive Mark Carne said earlier this year: "The Digital Railway is not about a new railway - it's about how do we maket he best of what we've already got."

"We believe that by transforming the way in which we control the trains on the track, we can run many more trains on the existing network and thus partly help to meet increasing capacity."

The ambitious programme aims to roll out digital signalling across the UK railway network in just 25 years.

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