The British rail industry is the oldest in the world and every time you travel on a train you are experiencing a part of that history. Indeed, the vast majority of rail routes in the UK have been in use for the best part of 200 years.
However, this is not an industry that is stuck in the past, and a number of exciting new projects are currently underway. These schemes are being undertaken in a bid to ensure the UK's rail services are some of the best in the world and make it an interesting time to work in the sector.
We take a look at some of the biggest projects below.
The 188 km Crossrail project is being undertaken in order to make it possible for an extra 1.5 million people to commute to London's main business districts within 45 minutes. Due to open in 2018, the development will boost the capital's rail capacity by ten per cent.
Crossrail will run from Reading in the west and through London to Essex in the east. The project is expected to deliver economic benefits of around £42 billion.
Another major rail development is Thameslink. This is a £6.5 billion project that has the aim of "transforming" travel between the north and south of London. Due to be completed in 2018, it will deliver train services every two to three minutes at peak times. London Bridge station will also be completely renovated.
Midland main line
In some parts of the UK, certain rail routes are not electrified. This limits the number of trains that can travel and means journey times are longer. The Midland main line project will solve this problem between London St Pancras and cities such as Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.
Over £1.5 billion is expected to have been invested in electrifying this route by 2020 and it is hoped this will eliminate bottlenecks and improve capacity. Greener trains will also be able to use the route and it is estimated this could reduce its carbon footprint by up to 11,000 tonnes.
One project that is near to completion is the Nottingham Hub development. This £150 million scheme aims to turn Nottingham Station in a central hub for the East Midlands region and is due to be finished within the next few weeks.
The station itself has been completely refurbished, with a new platform added and six miles of surrounding rail track re-laid. A tram extension and new tram stop at the station is due to be completed before the end of this year.
While each of the projects above are set to have a big impact on the rail network, none can match the High Speed 2 (HS2) development. This will see completely new high-speed rail lines built between London, Birmingham and major northern cities such as Manchester and Leeds over the next 20 years or so.
The project is estimated to generate £59.8 billion in user benefits and a further £13.3 billion in wider economic gains. From a rail jobs perspective, it will provide numerous employment opportunities. In the West Midlands alone, it is forecast to create some 22,000 permanent jobs. Meanwhile, the first stage of the project is expected to create 1,500 new full-time positions and close to 40,000 temporary jobs.
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