Eric Pickles visits Hitchin rail curve following �9bn rail investment announcement

A GOVERNMENT minister praised the multi-million pound Hitchin rail curve project when he visited the site this morning (Monday).

Eric Pickles, secretary of state for community and local government, visited the Stotfold Road base on Monday morning. His visit coincided with an announcement by Central Government, which said it intended to spend �9bn on rail investment.

Mr Pickles, who was on his first visit to the rail curve site, conceded that he had travelled by car there on the way to Birmingham.

“All our railways go north to south. If crossrail had been brought in it would have been a piece of cake to go from my home [Brentwood, Essex] to here,” he said.

“It would have involved a very, very long train journey to get here.”

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Mr Pickles also said that he thought the project was important for setting a precedent nationally.

Speaking to the Comet, he added: “These are the kind of schemes that need to be done. It’s not often we see a rail flyover.

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“I actually wanted to see the flyover if I’m truly honest. I think it’s the kind of thing that railways are serious about dealing with.”

The �47m project, which will ease rail congestion on the London King’s Cross to Cambridge route, is scheduled for completion in early 2014.

Mr Pickles was among other Government ministers who visited various rail sites across the country following the investment proposals.

David Higgins, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Today, the Government has issued a strong vote of confidence in the railway, and in our ability to deliver sustainable economic growth through development of, and investment in, the network.

“We do not underestimate the task laid down for us, but we will work alongside industry partners in the Rail Delivery Group to respond with a suitable plan.

“We will continue to deliver the highest possible levels of safety and performance across the network, while reducing costs for the remainder of this control period and the next.”

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