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Doubling number of passengers, rising fares - the biggest railway upgrade plan since Victorian times

22nd March 2018 Print

British Rail withdrew steam trains from regular service, as late 1968, but for a long time the “ golden era of steam” remained Britain’s most grand railway project. The developments carried out under the regime of Queen Victoria resulted in 18,680  miles of tracks, and thousands of new trains with a capacity to carry over 1100 million passengers by 1900. 

Now, as the country sets for another ambitious plan to revamp its rail networks, developments including Crossrail, High Speed 2, and electrification of some of the railways already underway, passengers and job seekers are about to witness improvements on a scale that is believed to match the expansion of the railway in the Victorian period. 

A Better Railway for Better Britain 

“ The train is being held at the red signal. We should be moving  again shortly” is an announcement that every Londoner knows all too well. Overcrowded carriages, no room to sit or stand, minor and major delays and occasional scapegoating of a “faulty train” sums up the experience of a morning commute in the capital. The rest of the country isn’t doing any better. Rising ticket fares, delays, cancellations, and occasional strikes that paralyze journeys across the country, are the reasons why so many people loathe traveling by trains.  

Voices in favour of renationalisation are being raised again in order to force the improvement of  services offered by train operating companies. The undergoing Railway Upgrade Plan seems to be tapping into the passenger's needs like never before. The modernisation programme is a group of projects that aim at increasing capacity, relieving congestion and ultimately making the passengers experience pleasurable again. 

The new, British “golden era” of rail construction indeed looks promising, and aims to ease the majority of the regular commuter’s complaints. The long-awaited Elizabeth line that will fully open in 2019, is set to relieve packed underground trains, by adding extra capacity to carry up to 1,5 million people commuting to central London from places like Reading and Heathrow to Shenfield and Abbey West. With the web of 21 km tunnels under central London, the new high-speed infrastructure is also believed to increase the overall passengers' satisfaction in peak hours, by cutting journey time across the city. For example, a trip to Canary Wharf from Liverpool Street will be reduced from 22 minutes to 8 minutes.

High Speed Two (HS2), an extension to existing high-speed network in the UK, is another ambitious project, striving to improve the country’s connectivity.  The £56bn railway that is due to open in December 2026, will off-load the UK's most important and  most congested railway corridor - West Coast Mainline. Although it is not the hyperloop speed yet, the trains running on HS2 would operate at the fastest current operating speed in Europe (250mph), reducing the commute between London, East Midlands, Leeds, and Birmingham by two hours on average.

More than just passengers’ comfort  

Major railway investments, also herald major future economic benefits. The grand railway upgrade in Victorian times brought to the country new opportunities for travel and commerce, reduced social barriers, and laid up foundations for Britain’s further growth and expansion. 

Owen Goodhead, the managing director of Randstad Construction, Property and Engineering, thinks that the undergoing modernization of railways across the country is likely to give it yet another economic boost, as the beneficiaries of these developments are not only the passengers but also the job seekers – “Thousands upon thousands of new jobs will be created and as our guide shows there is a diverse range requiring different levels of experience and skills.” 

The mixture of engineering projects initiated by the Railway Upgrade Plan, not only works to increase the country’s connectivity and overall travel satisfaction, but also stimulates job creation. The Crossrail alone created  13,800 full-time jobs across the UK at the end of 2013. 

As more hands are still needed, and engineers work around the clock to finish the upgrades on time, there’s never been a better chance to join truly challenging, and rewarding projects. 

Check the guide for more information about engineering jobs in your area.