The UK Government has launched the next stage of Rail Project SPEED, with the aim of challenging the rail industry to devise new ways of cutting downtime and project expenses.

At the virtual Project SPEED conference, rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris invited the 1,800 rail industry representatives to step aboard with the new efficient approach.

Last year, Project SPEED (Swift, Pragmatic and Efficient Enhancement Delivery) was formed cooperatively by the UK Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail.

The government reviewed infrastructure projects at different stages and identified ten major key themes to lower costs and speed up the delivery of infrastructure schemes.

The new ways of execution will be introduced across all rail upgrades for providing a better passenger experience, greater value to taxpayers, and optimised upgrade implementation.

Work to reopen the Northumberland line between Ashington and Newcastle-upon-Tyne is currently being executed according to the principles of Project SPEED.

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Northumberland County Council, Network Rail, the DfT and AECOM are working together to find prospects to bring this into service as soon as possible.

Heaton-Harris said: “The whole country has relied on the transport industry over the past year to keep the country moving, supplies delivered and key workers to their jobs saving lives. We are now depending on transport to kickstart our economic recovery. Rail Project SPEED, forged alongside Network Rail, is a call to arms to cut unnecessary red tape, be bold and purposeful, and empower the railway to be radical in its thinking to halve the time and reduce the cost of delivering infrastructure projects.

“By maximising the benefits of every pound that we’re channelling into rail, we will make the case for continued investment. Our intention is to create a more resilient, resourceful and robust railway, equipped for the challenges ahead and delivering better for its passengers, as we build back better from Covid-19.”

Rail Project SPEED has been launched based on the new Acceleration Unit, which was announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in August last year.

In addition, Northern Rail has announced that its new trains have covered around 16 million-kilometres across the network, reaching a new landmark.

In July 2019, the new trains, electric Class 331s and diesel Class 195s, were first introduced for Northern commuters.