Dave and Nick renew vows as business heads back rail plans

PLANS to invest £9.4bn in rail projects between 2014 and 2019 were given a warm reception by business leaders yesterday, as the coalition partners insisted they would spend the entire parliamentary term together.

As expected, the government yesterday confirmed a programme of investment that will see the Midland Main Line electrified between Sheffield and London and bottlenecks removed across the north of England and on the East Coast Main Line.

Speaking at the launch, Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, dismissed suggestions they were like a warring couple, adding that the Tories and Lib Dems plan to work together until an election in 2015.

“It’s tough to be in government in difficult times, it’s not always a walk in the park, or in the rose garden,” Clegg said. “None of that will stop us from continuing to govern in the national interest for the whole country.”

Transport commentator Christian Wolmar told City A.M. the coalition has shown it is committed to rail. “Politically it’s interesting because it shows the government sees the railways as good news. A generation or two ago they were seen as a Victorian backwater that needed closing down. Even when privatised the railways were seen as industry in decline,” he said. “The various projects around the country are politically motivated but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.”

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, also applauded the spending plans: “Investment in our rail infrastructure is important to British business. So these announcements are welcome, if in many cases long overdue.”

The coalition said the plan also includes the electrification of branch lines across the Thames valley and a commitment to electrifying freight lines across the Midlands.