RAIL investment of up to £350m will mean more seats for Portsmouth commuters.
The government announced the huge cash injection for London Waterloo railway station today as part of a £9.4 billion raft of rail projects across the country which David Cameron called the ‘biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era’.
It will mean Network Rail can extend and widen platforms at Waterloo which in turn means more carriages can be added to trains from Portsmouth to London. There will be up to an extra 140,000 daily commutes to and from Waterloo from 2014.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, a prominent rail campaigner, said she welcomes the investment but believes it must be coupled with basic passenger comfort standards for it to work.
She said: ‘Investment in infrastructure is incredibly important and helps the economy both in the immediate future and long term but I’d like to see quality of service and the government getting the most out of the investment.
‘I have campaigned quite a lot about getting a comfort standard written into rail franchise agreements with the rail operators providing decent seats and toilets on trains.
‘You then cut out problems for quite a lot of people in all sorts of different circumstances to enable them to use the trains.
‘We want to be catering for more people using public transport, we want to make that transport a desirable thing to do.
‘I’m thinking particularly of old people and people with young families that need access to toilets on journeys perhaps longer than an hour.’
The fine detail of the investment projects have not been given but Network Rail, which is responsible for railway infrastructure, must give a response to the announcement in January.
The former Eurostar international platforms 19 to 24, which have been unused since 2007 when the service was moved to St Pancras, may be used to accommodate trains.
Miss Mordaunt added: ‘There are some simple things that do not add costs to the train operating companies and unless we do these things we’re not making train travel accessible to everyone that could benefit from it.’
The entire south east passenger network is electrified apart from freight lines running from Southampton Docks. They will be upgraded.
Hassard Stacpoole from South West Trains said it comes down to increased capacity and added: ‘By providing more capacity we can run longer trains and provide more room on the trains.
‘With the franchise agreements there are certain standards operators have to maintain and deliver against.
‘The reality is that the projected growth (in passenger numbers) over the next 20 years is 30 per cent and we want to be able to put in the capacity to be able to cope with that.’