Network Rail reveals how £47bn of cash will be spent in its five-year plan

Network Rail has announced it will attempt to slash train delays by 15% and provide 1,000 extra services by 2021, as part of its £47bn, five-year plan to improve Britain’s railways.

The programme covers the period of 2019-2014 (CP6) and the 25% increase in funding will largely focus on maintenance, operations and renewals to make the most of the existing railway. The rail operator says the plan for CP6 “will drive economic growth, jobs and housing by delivering a better railway for the millions of people who rely on it”. One of the major focuses moving forward is likely to be the TransPennine line from Leeds to Manchester with little mention of funding for new major projects.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, who announced last week he would be retiring, said the plan was “ambitious but realistic” and would “deliver a better railway that Britain needs”. 

He added: “Passengers journeys will be transformed in the next few years as thousands of new trains enter service. By 2021 there will be almost 350,000 more services per year than today – an average of an extra 1,000 services a day, better connecting communities and driving economic growth across the country. 

Of the £48bn total initially allocated to Network Rail in October by the government, the plan details £47bn of spending split between previously agreed enhancement projects, renewals and operations and maintenance – with the final £1bn saved for some smaller infrastructure projects. A total of £10bn will be allocated to ensuring ongoing projects are completed. 

“This plan builds on these improvements and sets out how we will make the railway more reliable and cost efficient and how we accelerate the technological transformation of our railway into the digital age,” Carne added. “We will continue our strategy to work more closely with train and freight operators, working together in partnership to continue to expand the network for the millions more who will want and need it in the years ahead. It is an ambitious, but realistic plan that is not without challenge, but with great people working together in great teams, it can deliver the better railway that a better Britain needs.”  

The business plan will now go before regulator Office of Rail and Road for review with a final decision expected in the autumn. The five-year programme will be overseen by Carne until the beginning of the CP6, but the chief executive is to step down from the role after that.

The organisation has also the addressed the importance of improving diversity within its staff. Network Rail has pledged to hire 50% more women over the five-year period, meaning a quarter of the 38,000 employees would be women.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) has welcomed the much-anticipated publication of Network Rail’s five-year plan. 

CECA chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “The rail sector is the single largest driver of activity for the UK’s infrastructure contractors. As such, members will welcome the additional clarity that has been provided by the publication of today’s Strategic Business Plan. The last five years have proved challenging for industry due to volatility in the flow of work in the sector. Network Rail has recognised that this uncertainty needs to be addressed if we are to deliver an efficient and affordable service to the travelling public. Industry is ready to deliver the CP6 programme. We look forward to working with Network Rail to achieve this, while also making the case for further investment in enhancements.”

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