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The Government has deferred a decision on replacing intercity express trains on the rail network.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond also announced that news about the extent of electrification on the Great Western route would not be released until the new year.

The Government did say, however, that there would be 2,100 new rail carriages on the network by May 2019 to help overcrowding on the busiest services.

The Intercity Express Programme (IEP) - to replace Intercity 125 high-speed trains - was halted by the Labour government earlier this year and an independent review was set up which reported to the new Government in June.

The Government said it is now looking at two options - a revised bid from the original preferred bidder Agility, a consortium led by Japanese company Hitachi; and an alternative for a fleet of all-electric trains.

The Government said it would continue to assess these two alternatives, "alongside a consideration of the extent of electrification on the Great Western route" and would make a further statement in the new year.

Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I made the decision that we must carry on investing in the railway, we can't stand still. If we want growth to continue, we have to invest in our transport infrastructure."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said: "Today's announcement is classic political smoke and mirrors.

"Key infrastructure developments like the intercity fleet have been kicked deep into the long grass and even the carriage procurement numbers have been dressed up to look better than they are with long-term projects mangled up with the urgent replacements required to keep pace with current demand.

"The reality is that the inflation-busting fare increases kick in within weeks while the infrastructure and upgrade works we need to drag the UK's railways out of the slow lane are light years away. The profits of the train companies are ring-fenced while the services to passengers are left to rot."

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