RAIL passengers are being promised faster journeys and more available seats in future after the Government pledged £240m for improvements along the East Coast Main Line.
More than £400m has also been earmarked to increase capacity on routes into northern cities, which includes £322m to fully complete the Northern Hub project.
The work will provide for an additional 20,000 commuter trips a day into cities such as Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield during the peak hours in the morning.
Along with electrification work, the scheme will improve journey times between Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.
London and the South East will get more than £700m to tackle the most congested commuter routes.
Taken with the new London Crossrail project, it will provide for 120,000 extra commuting trips per day into London in the morning peak.
Other proposed upgrades include the full electrification of the Midland Main and Great Western Lines, costing £800m and £600m respectively.
More than £900m will be available to fund smaller schemes to improve stations, journey times and reliability, and freight services.
The plans are part of a £9.4bn national programme – including £4.2bn worth of new schemes – for 2014-19.
The rail industry will now carry out further work to determine the work needed, and the likely start and completion dates of the schemes. It will publish its plans next January.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was the “biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era”.
But Labour said it had announced rail electrification plans in 2009 and it was “a bit rich” for coalition ministers to take credit now after presiding over “two years of dither and delay”.
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle also refused to rule out re-nationalising the railways, although a senior Labour source played down the significance of her comments.
Campaigners said they feared the investment would be paid for by higher rail fares, while transport union the RMT said the projects announced yesterday “had been talked about for years”.
The Government said the package would be funded “in part from fare rises already announced in 2010 and also from the substantial efficiency savings which projects like electrification will have on the long-term operating costs of the railways”.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: “Investment along the East Coast Main Line and in the Northern Hub show how this coalition Government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and fast-moving railway network that drives jobs and growth.
“These plans to increase capacity and shorten journey times on intercity, commuter and freight services are, alongside our plans for high speed rail, absolutely key to securing prosperity in the North East in the decades ahead.”
Rail operator East Coast said: “We welcome the extra investment in the East Coast Main Line and are looking forward to hearing more details in due course.”
Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon, said: “I welcome it if they are starting to get their act together and put money in and create jobs and improve infrastructure, which is what they should have done from day one.”
These plans are absolutely key to securing prosperity in the North East