Network Rail sets out response to challenges of Britain’s growing railway

Posted: 8 January 2013 | | No comments yet

Network Rail committed to continuing the biggest investment in infrastructure since the Victorian era…

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Network Rail today committed to continuing the biggest investment in infrastructure since the Victorian era, reducing costs and delivering more passengers on time than ever before – but also warned that tough choices need to be made if the industry is to meet these competing challenges and respond to ever rising demand from passengers.

Network Rail’s strategic business plan, which has been submitted to the Office of Rail Regulation, sets out proposals which will help drive Britain’s economy and make its railway as efficient as the best in Europe.

With year-on-year passenger and freight growth continuing at unprecedented levels, Network Rail plans to spend £37.5bn on running and expanding Britain’s railway over the five years to 2019. If approved, this investment in new infrastructure will make a real difference by boosting capacity at key pinch points on the network, providing 170,000 extra commuter seats at peak times by 2019. However, even this will not be enough on the busy West Coast Main Line, where the added capacity that HS2 will provide is essential both for the future of the railway and the economic prosperity of the country.

The plan also sets out the need to future-proof critical infrastructure against the impact of changing weather patterns, including more frequent flooding, and to enable more rail freight by upgrading strategic routes to accommodate bigger freight containers.

David Higgins, Network Rail chief executive, said: “One million more trains run every year than ten years ago, more passengers arrive on time than ever before, our safety record is one of the best in Europe and, despite the daily challenges we face, customer satisfaction is at record levels. Successive governments have made this possible by looking beyond the short term and recognising the critical importance of the railway to Britain’s future.

“As our railway gets busier the challenges get bigger and more complex. We have entered an era of trade-offs. Increasingly we have to balance the need to build more infrastructure, run trains on time and cut costs, and in many areas choices will need to be made.”

Tim O’Toole, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We are moving forward together as an industry, which is a significant development, but at the end of the day passengers and freight users must see the value in our efforts. That means satisfying the demands for more capacity but also the demands for value for money. The latter will only be met by achieving greater efficiency and better service for everyone who uses and pays for our railway.”

As well as publishing the strategic business plan, Network Rail also published an accompanying document, A Better Railway for a Better Britain, outlining ten key commitments for the future, including investing in new technology, building partnerships with customers and suppliers and investing in infrastructure today to both save long-term costs and build on its record for running one of the safest railways in Europe.

Mr Higgins continued: “As an industry we have achieved a huge amount, but we are already seeing the benefit of working more closely together with our customers and suppliers and that must remain at the heart of everything we do. Our aim is to be a trusted leader in the industry as we work to build a better railway for a better Britain.”

Investing in infrastructure

Network Rail’s five-year strategic business plan, covering the period from 2014 to 2019 (known as control period five, or CP5), maps out a programme of projects designed to maintain and improve an ageing infrastructure and schemes to reduce the cost of running the rail network. By 2019, the plan will deliver a railway that:

  • Moves 225m more passengers per year and carries 355,000 more trains – the highest numbers ever seen on Britain’s railways
  • Provides 20% extra morning peak seats into central London and 32% into large regional cities in England and Wales
  • Delivers a step change in connectivity between regional centres e.g. 700 more trains a day linking key northern cities and a ten minute reduction in journey time between Manchester and Leeds
  • Carries 30% more freight than today
  • Maintains record levels of performance, with expected PPM (public performance measure) of 92.5% by the end of CP5
  • Is future-proofing critical infrastructure such as 30,000 bridges, embankments and tunnels against the impact of changing weather patterns, including flooding
  • Has cut CO2 emissions per passenger by 37% – the equivalent of one million lorries off of our congested roads – and has hundreds of miles more electrified railway
  • Is the safest in Europe, reducing risk at level crossings by 8% in CP5
  • Continues to modernise antiquated signalling equipment as part of a plan to move away from over 800 signal boxes to 14 major operations centres, allowing us to run more trains closer together, safely and reliably
  • Is more efficient, reducing the cost of running Britain’s railways by a further 18% (20% in CP4 and 27% in CP3) and cutting annual public subsidy to between £2.6bn and £2.9bn in 2019 – down from £4.5bn in 2009 and £7bn in 2004

To do this, Network Rail and its industry partners will be:


  • Removing the biggest bottleneck on the Great Western Main Line by rebuilding the railway in and around Reading station (£900m)
  • Completing the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station (£600m)
  • Delivering the Northern Hub project (£560m) which creates 20,000 jobs and increases rail capacity across the north of England by 700 services per day
  • Electrifying over 850 miles of railway including the Great Western and Midland Main Lines and introducing new, more reliable and quicker trains
  • Supporting High Speed 2 and the Department for Transport as they start to build Britain’s high speed railway network to relieve the huge capacity constraints on the West Coast Main Line
  • Connecting Oxford with Bedford and Milton Keynes as part of the East West Rail project, which will provide a new, electrified railway linking the Great Western, West Coast and Midland Main Lines.


  • Reconnecting the border towns of Scotland with Edinburgh by reopening 31 miles of railway closed by Beeching in the 1960s (£300m Borders rail project)
  • Improving the route between Aberdeen and Inverness resulting in better commuter services and a new station at Kintore.


  • Electrifying the Great Western Main Line to Swansea
  • Electrifying the Cardiff Valley lines
  • Major resignalling work bringing more reliable services in the north of the country between Flint and Llandudno


  • Increasing the number of seats for passengers in London by 20% during the busiest times of day
  • Completing the Thameslink upgrade programme (£6bn)
  • Undertaking the biggest and most complicated station rebuilding and remodelling ever on our railway, at London Bridge
  • Completing the surface elements of the Crossrail project (£2.3bn)


  • £200m investment in the Strategic Freight Network

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