Five-year investment plan for ‘Backbone of Britain’ railway revealed: Blisworth earthworks drone shot with Avanti Progress Train passing by

Friday 19 May 2023

Five-year investment plan for ‘Backbone of Britain’ railway revealed

Region & Route:
North West & Central
  • Passengers and freight at heart of £8.5bn railway investment in Network Rail’s North West and Central region over next five years
  • Climate change resilience, passenger and worker safety and train performance recognised as fundamental to running a reliable and efficient railway
  • Readying existing infrastructure during HS2 construction vital for future journeys and increasing passenger capacity

Passengers and freight customers are at the heart of the multi-billion pound 2024-29 business plan revealed by Network Rail’s North West and Central region today (Friday 19 May).

The regional Strategic Business Plan (SBP) covers the projected activities, outputs and cost of operating, maintaining and renewing its railway infrastructure between 2024 and 2029.

The publication is a major milestone in the ongoing process to determine Network Rail’s funding requirements for the five years to 2029, which are known as ‘Control Periods’, and the next five years will be Control Period 7 (CP7).

The North West and Central region is the economic spine connecting the country’s main cities - London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, with vital links to Scotland.

It is devolved into three ‘routes’ – West Coast South, Central and North West – all working closely with train operators, politicians and partners to address the local needs of passengers while working together across the regional and national railway network to get passengers and vital freight goods to where they need to be.

In the North West and Central region the main priorities over CP7 will be:

  • Improved train performance: Running a cost-effective and efficient railway for the taxpayer while keeping passengers and freight trains moving safely to a reliable timetable. Major investment will take place to prevent delays caused by adverse weather and climate change in the form of drainage upgrades to reduce the risk of tracks flooding, earthwork projects to prevent landslips and upgrading overhead power lines and track to make them less likely to fail in extreme temperatures.
  • Environment: A focus on sustainability so the railway not only remains the greenest form of public transport, but its operations do too with the introduction of electric fleet vehicles and employing latest carbon-saving technology across offices and maintenance depots.
  • Sustainable growth: Improving current infrastructure to improve passengers’ experience and make the railway accessible for all. Plans include investment in technology and research and development, and will facilitate the introduction of major projects such as Transpennine Route Upgrade, preparing for HS2 and other targeted investment across the country, along with supporting the continued growth of rail freight through an ambitious but realistic target of 7.5% growth across the national network.

Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s North West and Central region managing director, said: “Running a safe, green and efficient railway on the West Coast and Chiltern main lines along with the Midlands, North West and Cumbria is crucial to the country’s economic success which is why our plan for CP7 is ambitious, focussed on our passengers and customers and reflects the current complexities and challenges facing the industry.

“Yet it’s not only about running the railway we already have, but making sure it works in harmony with the construction of the new zero-carbon railway HS2 which continues at pace, and also East West Rail with services due to start running on Phase 2 by December 2024. This will no doubt be challenging, but when complete will transform Britain’s railway – and this funding from Government means the North West and Central region will continue to be a foundation stone of these new rail routes for the future.”

Network Rail’s funding is made available from governments over five-year periods, known as control periods, with control period 7 (CP7) starting on 1 April 2024 and running until 2029.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) will now review this initial strategic business plan and review how it measures up against the Government’s HLOS (high-level output specification) and SoFA (statement of funds available), and publish its draft determination on this plan later this year including targets, measures and incentives it will hold Network Rail to deliver over CP7.

Summaries of the national, and each region’s and function’s CP7 strategic business plan can be downloaded here.

Notes to Editors

NW&C’s routes at a glance:

West Coast South

Employees 1,422

Stations 63

Track miles 1,000

Daily services 2,187

CP7 Operation Expenditure £881m

CP7 Renewals £898m

Key CP7 renewals include:

  • Rerailing track at high criticality sites at Denbigh Hall and Hanslope Junction to maintain performance on high use, high priority lines.
  • Key signalling life extension works at Northampton and Willesden, alongside works to move re-control to Rugby from Marston Vale and Stoke.
  • Replacement of level crossings with overbridges to reduce safety risk.
  • Earthworks renewals spend will be in line with Network Rail Earthwork Policy and at assets which are highest risk, either due to their current condition or consequence of failure
  • High priority track and earthworks schemes to improve drainage.
  • Investment in our Delivery Unit and operational buildings to improve current poor facilities to improve safety and security – alongside targeting improvements in energy performance.
  • Critical rewiring and fire suppression system works at London Euston station.
  • Renewal of aging 11 kV high voltage DC cables on the Euston to Watford DC network, and at critical junctions and station locations, to improve operational reliability and service levels.
  • Safety-critical schemes to target high risk bridge structures and footbridges
  • Renewals of obsolete 25kV oil filled circuit breakers at Camden and Wembley which current present significant safety, performance, and financial risks.


Employees 1,508

Stations 152

Track miles 1,100

Daily services 2,461

CP7 OPEX £662m

CP7 renewals £751m

Key CP7 renewals include: 

  • Track renewals schemes targeted at life-expired assets to address areas on the route that present the highest risk of failures and the subsequent mitigating actions required such as speed restrictions 
  • Signalling schemes address assets with highest performance and reliability risks and focus on life extension works in the Worcester area, Marylebone, Aston, Kingsbury, Leamington and Stourbridge. 
  • Renewals of level crossings at  Hartlebury, Blakedown and Bentley Heath to maintain levels of safety and reliability. 
  • Earthworks schemes to address high risk sites on strategic lines into Birmingham, and at Harbury and Ledbury. 
  • Track drainage renewals to reduce the likelihood of flooding events impacting levels of service. 
  • Prioritised investment on bridges to maintain existing capability and condition, including reconstructions / repairs to bridges in poor condition. 
  • Renewal of Birmingham New Street aged overhead lines to improve reliability. 
  • Renewal and replacement of 25kV oil filled life-expired circuit breakers (installed in 1958 – 1963) which are high-risk hazards. 
  • Renewal of Water Orton Station buildings to improve passenger safety and experience at the station. 
  • Passenger and public accessibility works including Lift refurbishment at multiple sites, footbridge renewal at Wendover and staircase renewal at Tyseley station. 
  • Fencing boundary renewals at prioritised, known trespass and vandalism hotspots to reduce the impact on reliability and ongoing cost to the industry. 

North West

Employees 3,390

Stations 347

Track miles 2,500

Daily services 5,702

CP7 operational expenditure £1,541m

CP7 renewals £2,524m

Key CP7 renewals include:

  • Ongoing delivery of our Crewe Hub Programme to introduce a layout fit for the next 50+ years of operation to enable HS2 services to call at Crewe. Works include resignalling, track and level crossings.
  • Critical track renewals on the approach to Manchester Piccadilly, replacing life-expired assets to improve reliability.
  • Key resignalling schemes are part of Crewe Hub and WCML (N) programmes, with additional expenditure focused on extension of assets in Cumbria, Buxton, Great Rocks, Chester, and Stockport.
  • Renewal of level crossings in the Silecroft area, Wigan – Stockport, and Deansgate Junction to improve public safety when coming into contact with our infrastructure at these points.
  • Targeted drainage schemes to reduce flooding risk at known high risk sites.
  • Earthworks schemes to address sites at high risk from adverse weather, including Ashton Heath, Worleston Embankment and Chorley Flying Arches.
  • Targeted safety and accessibility schemes to improve station canopies, platform condition, station buildings, footbridges, and lift renewals and toilet refurbishment at Manchester Piccadilly and Liverpool Lime Street.
  • Replacement of life-expired and failing overhead line equipment on WCML (N) that is a significant contributor to reliability issues.
  • Renewal of obsolete 25kV oil-filled circuit breakers, not replaced since 1958 – 63, in the Liverpool and Manchester areas to reduce safety and asset failure risk.
  • Improved fencing at trespass hot spots to reduce performance, safety and financial risks

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - North West & Central Region
0330 854 0100

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

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