the inside track on the future of rail.

The rail network is being pushed to capacity with an ever-increasing number of commuters. We've highlighted five rail projects that are changing the way we travel.

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major investment in rail.

The UK rail network is currently in the midst of important and dramatic developments.

Crossrail, High Speed 2 (HS2), the Great North Rail Project, major electrification schemes and Thameslink are transforming Britain's railway industry as we know it.

Explore our interactive map to learn key stats and facts about the five projects.


  • will bring an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 mins of central London
  • expected to create 30,000 new jobs by 2026
  • will be fully operational by December 2019

High Speed 2.

  • will reduce journey times from Birmingham to London by 30 mins
  • phase 1 of HS2 is predicted to boost 40,000 jobs
  • trains will operate at speeds of up to 250mph, faster than any other in Europe

Great North Rail Project.

  • £1 billion+ of improvements are planned for the north of England
  • work is due to be completed by 2022
  • the Transpennine route upgrade will reduce journey times from Leeds to Manchester to 40 mins

Major electrification schemes.

  • carbon emissions of electric trains are 20-35% lower than diesel trains
  • the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Plan (EGIP) will cost £742 million
  • the Gospel Oak to Barking electrification plan will cost £130 million


  • existing service will be extended to 100 more stations by 2018
  • trains will run every 2 to 3 minutes in each direction during peak times
  • the project is a £6.5 billion scheme

railway projects.

  • Crossrail (Elizabeth Line).

    Crossrail, which is also known as the Elizabeth Line, is currently the biggest civil construction project in Europe. Costing £14.8 billion, the scheme will link Reading and Heathrow (west) with Shenfield and Abbey West (east). Ten new stations will be constructed, with each one cleverly designed with a distinct character that reflects the local heritage. 

    It’s estimated to carry over 200 million passengers a year, increasing capacity to central London’s rail network by 10%. This will not only ease congestion but drastically cut down commute times into the city. Canary Wharf to Liverpool Street, for example, currently takes 22 minutes, but once the Elizabeth line is running this will decrease to eight minutes. 

    The broad aims of the project are to reduce travelling times, increase central London capacity and improve employment opportunities (30,000 jobs are expected to be created by 2026). Trains will be air-conditioned with walk-through carriages and have 4G, wi-fi and capacity for 1,500 passengers.

  • HS2 (High Speed 2).

    HS2, the popular acronym for High Speed 2, is a planned high-speed rail network connecting London to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and the East Midlands.

    The first phase of the £55bn railway is due to launch in December 2026, with trains travelling at high speed between London and Birmingham before continuing on the existing West Coast Main Line. By 2027, and the opening of the expansion of the network to Crewe, the journey between Glasgow and London will be reduced by 45 minutes compared to today’s journey time. The onward journeys to Manchester and Leeds could start being built in the middle of the next decade, with the line predicted to open by 2032-33.

    The Department for Transport says there could be nearly 15,000 seats an hour on trains between London and the cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, travelling at speeds of up to 250mph – faster than any currently operating in Europe.

    The plans could mean that the train journey from Leeds to Birmingham, as an example, which normally takes two hours, could go down to just 57 minutes. Furthermore, the construction of HS2 would create around 25,000 jobs up and down the country and has estimated economic benefits to the UK of £103bn.

  • The Great North Rail Project.

    The Great North Rail Project, often shortened to GNRP, is a scheme that aims to transform train travel for customers in the North. Network Rail expects hundreds more trains to run each day, planning for “more trains with more seats, running more quickly and more reliably”.

    One of the key plans within the project is the Transpennine route upgrade. This involves the upgrade of the railway between Manchester Victoria to Leeds and Selby/York. The upgrade aims to deliver faster and more frequent rail services with space for more passengers by improving connections between key towns and cities across the north of England. 

    UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling commented that “travel will be transformed across the north as we invest £13bn to improve journeys, expand our motorways, scrap the outdated Pacer trains and spend £55bn on HS2 to cut journey times between our great northern cities.”

  • Major electrification schemes.

    The electrification of the railway system is a big part of the Railway Upgrade Plan involving multiple projects across the country, such as the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Plan (EGIP), the Gospel Oak to Barking route, the Great Western route, the Midland Mainline, sections of the Great North Rail Project and important rail routes in South Wales.

    The carbon emissions of electric trains are 20-35% lower than diesel trains, which would dramatically improve air quality in city centres. Electric trains are also faster, quieter and are able to hold more seats than a diesel equivalent. This makes journey times shorter, increases passenger capacity, reduces noise pollution for lineside residents and decreases the cost it takes to operate the railway system. Less maintenance is needed because electric trains cause less wear to the track, making railway overall more reliable for passengers.

  • Thameslink.

    The Thameslink Programme is all about transforming north-south travel through London. The infrastructure and new trains investment plan aims to increase capacity on one of Europe’s busiest stretches of railway.

    So far, there has been platform lengthening at several stations, 12-car long trains between Brighton and Bedford have been delivered, significant track work has been done as well as station upgrades for West Hampstead, Farringdon and Blackfriars stations.

    The programme will help meet a massive rise in demand and increase the number of Thameslink route services through central London to one every two-three minutes at peak times. Passengers will have better travel options to more destinations by linking some services, e.g. from Cambridge and parts of the East Coast Mainline into the Thameslink network. This will help relieve congestion on the London Underground, especially the Northern line.

high speed rail jobs train animation

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site engineer - £25k+

The main technical advisor on a construction site overseeing a variety of tasks.

site engineer jobs

site engineer.

job details


Most employers will require candidates to have a civil engineering or related degree, though some may accept HNC/HND in a construction-related or engineering discipline. Some level of practical experience in civil engineering and the railway industry is advantageous.

Job Description:

As the main technical advisor on a construction site, the role often involves checking plans, drawings and quantities for accuracy and overseeing the selection of materials to ensure the project is delivered on time.

quantity surveyor - £45k

Manages all costs relating to construction projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures.

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quantity surveyor.

job details


Typically, a degree in quantity surveying, civil engineering or equivalent is required, as well as major project experience and a background in the rail industry.

Basic Job Description:

Quantity surveyors have a hugely broad job, but some key responsibilities are managing general commercial expectations relating to a project, ensuring payment is managed on time in line with contractual entitlement, the preparing of regular reports and risk management and calculation.

commercial manager - £70k

Oversees the commercial activities of a project and leads contract management.

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commercial manager.

job details


Candidates are largely educated to degree level in a quantity surveying or engineering discipline and have a background in assisting successful operations in a commercial or contracting environment.

Basic Job Description:

It differs role to role, but a commercial manager manages the commercial activities and their inter-relation on major work-streams, projects and programmes to ensure commercial control. They lead on contract management of rail projects from initial enquiry to contract completion.

planner - £50k+

Supports with planning, scheduling and reporting on construction projects.

rail planner jobs


job details


Some level of knowledge/experience is expected in engineering, procurement, contracts, construction, and start-up work processes. Proficiency with PC operating systems and several basic software applications can be helpful.

Job Description:

A planner supports the planning and scheduling processes that are required to manage contracts and contractor schedules, support the programme’s progress and with reporting.

sub agent - £35k

Provides support to site engineers and manages material procurement.

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sub agent.

job details


Candidates will have a HND/degree or equivalent in civil engineering and will have previous experience of working in a site engineer capacity.

Job Description:

Typical tasks for a sub agent include managing the sub-contractors and engineers, the procurement of materials, quality control of the works and providing support to site engineers.

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