Holidaymakers on their way to the sun will find their journeys a welcome 13 minutes shorter under ambitious multi-billion pound improvements announced by Railtrack today.

And travellers to Yorkshire's East Coast may be encouraged to leave their cars at home and avoid the busy A64 thanks to £1 million improvements to Scarborough Station and track improvements, also included in the plans.

Railtrack today announced £17 billion of railway investment over the next 10 years on improving stations, tracks and signalling and cutting journey times.

Tourism chiefs in North Yorkshire hope the cash boost will also encourage more foreign visitors arriving in Manchester Airport to travel to York and North and East Yorkshire.

Patrick Thornber from the First Stop York tourism group said: "First Stop York is delighted that the rail journey from Manchester to York will be shortened. Manchester is an important gateway to our city and any reduction in travelling time is heartily welcomed."

Railtrack's plans include:

Cutting the fastest journey time from Leeds to Manchester, the route used by passengers travelling from North Yorkshire to Manchester Airport, from 58 minutes to 45 minutes;

Investing £150 million in re-signalling and re-modelling at Leeds Station and opening a new platform;

More improvements at York Station where a £1.5 million refurbishment has just been completed;

Refurbishments at Harrogate Station worth £800,000;

A £1 million scheme to improve Scarborough Station;

Track renewal between Seamer and Scarborough;

Cutting the journey time from York to Kings Cross from 1hr 41 mins to 1hr 37 mins.

Railtrack's 10-year network management statement's main investment in the area will be the £150 million at Leeds after the west end of the station was identified as one of 15 bottlenecks in the country.

Signalling improvements there should make journeys run more smoothly for all passengers going through the station, according to a Railtrack spokeswoman.

She said details of more improvements for York station would be revealed in the next few months and said staff had worked round the clock to finish the first phase for York's Ecofin conference.

Railtrack London North Eastern director Nicholas Pollard added: "This year's statement shows our commitment to provide a railway network which will make a significant difference to the travelling public and freight customers.

"Our investment schemes in the Yorkshire area are really beginning to show, and in the coming years the improvements will be even more drastic."

The company also listed for the first time the most congested areas on the passenger network - as well as future possible bottlenecks and solutions.

Railtrack, under fire from rail regulator John Swift over the pace of investment, also said it was currently £320 million ahead of his spending expectations.

Train drivers are to be advised by their union to slow down if they believe tracks or signalling are in poor condition, which could disrupt services, it was revealed today. Aslef is sending out "cautionary notices" warning its 13,000 members about poor track or signalling conditions it believes are caused by inadequate maintenance and investment.

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