Network Rail and CP6 – looking back on five years of change: Engineers replacing bridges at Warrington Bank Quay station in May 2021

Monday 25 Mar 2024

Network Rail and CP6 – looking back on five years of change

Region & Route:

Control Period 6, or CP6, is the rail infrastructure manager’s sixth, five-year funding period, which started on 1 April 2019 and will finish on 31 March 2024. During this time, Network Rail has successfully delivered major rail upgrades across Great Britain to improve the railway for its passengers and freight users, while navigating unprecedented change inside and outside the railway. 


We began the period with a difficult legacy of the 2018 timetable change and our Chair’s review of an unaffordable enhancement programme, then found our way through a pandemic, changes in passenger numbers and behaviours, not to mention industrial action, and we are about to embark on a new process to bring track and train closer together again. All the way through that, we made sure we were putting passengers and freight customers first.

How did we get on?

CEO’s reflections

Reflecting on the period, Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines, said: “The last five years has seen unprecedented change, not just at Network Rail, but across the world. Our railway kept essential workers and freight moving during the Covid pandemic, and of course we’re now faced with a different challenge – building passenger numbers back.

“We are doing that through putting passengers first and getting closer to our customers.

“We started that process right at the beginning of the period as Network Rail devolved into five regional business, themselves split into 14 routes, to better respond to, and work with, our train operating colleagues, the Welsh and Scottish Governments, combined and local authorities and funders. It put us in a strong position to respond to the enormous change that hit us with the pandemic, and gave us the flexibility to bounce back afterwards.

“Through those changes we delivered a safe and reliable railway for our passengers and freight customers throughout the pandemic, through the Queen’s platinum jubilee, her subsequent funeral and the King’s coronation, as well as for the Commonwealth Games and Eurovision.

“We also took control of costs when delivering upgrades and renewals – slashing the cost of electrification, with the Glasgow-Barrhead project, for example, delivered for under £64m - and bringing in around £4bn of efficiencies over the period.

“That’s a huge achievement and means we are able to begin Control Period 7 in a position to deliver far, far more for our money.

“Mixed with these successes, though, the period also sadly saw tragedy. We will never forget the tragic events at Carmont, Scotland, in August 2020. Following this, we have brought about a huge change in the way we approach managing and mitigating the impacts of extreme weather.

“Climate change is perhaps the biggest challenge we face and almost £3bn of our Control Period 7 plan will go towards improving the resilience of our railway over the next five years.

“We also lost colleagues from Network Rail and our supply chain working on and around the railway, albeit at a much lower level than historically. We carry their memories with us as an example of how we can never be complacent and never stop trying to improve the way we work and make the railway safe.

“We began the control period with many working practices on tracks that would be familiar to our Victorian ancestors. We ended it having fundamentally changed the way we work, with a 99 per cent reduction in putting workers out on the ‘live’ railway to act as lookouts.  That change has come at significant cost and some short-term lost of productivity but it was the right thing to do.

“As CP6 draws to a close I also pay tribute to our enormous and diverse supply chain, from small SMEs to global players. We spend some £6bn a year with our suppliers we require their help more than ever to create an efficient railway and spend tax and farepayers’ money as wisely as we can.

“You may be surprised to hear that during CP6 we have facilitated the building of over 17,000 homes through land sales, building joint ventures and by unlocking developments around railway stations. In comparative terms that would make us on of Britain's top housebuilders. This couldn’t happen without the hard work of our property team and our development partners.

“Now, we look forward to the start of CP7, which sees climate change, train performance, industry revenue and reform as the focus and challenges before us. The creation of a new integrated rail body – Great British Railways – is designed to re-join track and train and aims to deliver a better, simpler, greener railway for all users. It will mark the end of Network Rail but that is something we look forward to in the interest of better serving our nations.

"It will also see us mark the 200th anniversary of the railway in 2025, a railway that has transformed the face of Britain, and the world and will continue to drive economic growth and prosperity, social cohesion and a greener economy.”

Some CP6 big number highlights:

CP6 has seen significant investment in our railway:

  • Our total CP6 renewals expenditure was £18.7bn (of which £16.8bn represents renewing core assets).
  • On top of that, we also delivered £11.6bn of enhancements. Department for Transport-funded enhancements totalled £8.6bn, while Transport Scotland funded enhancements totalled £0.8bn and others, such as HS2 making up the difference of £2.2bn.
  • In CP6 we replaced 3,271 km of track and refurbished 2,029Km.
  • Almost 40 million trains ran (39,918,241).
  • £4bn saved – over the five years, the company will have made efficiency savings of some £4bn. That’s an additional £500m of savings on top of our original £3.5bn five-year efficiency programme – exceeding the efficiency targets set by Office of Rail and Road.

Five years of investment:

Despite the very challenging circumstances during the five years of CP6, the company’s regions and routes delivered many notable improvements for passengers. What follows are just some of the highlights that we have been proud to deliver.

Elizabeth Line: Network Rail played a role in the delivery of one of this country’s most notable railway projects. The route is known best for its tunnels but 75% of the 100km line is above ground. We were responsible for the design, development and delivery of the parts of the route that are on the existing railway network, through outer London, Berkshire and Essex, not just in CP6 but across CP5 (2014-2019 ) too.

Its passenger numbers are already one of the biggest success stories the railway has enjoyed - with over 155 million journeys in its first year. We built new bright, spacious ticket halls at a number of stations including Abbey Wood, Ilford, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway, Southall, Hayes and Harlington , West Drayton and Acton Main Line. Lifts were installed at many stations including Forest Gate, Harold Wood, Ealing , Southall and West Drayton, to help deliver step-free access at every Elizabeth Line station. In addition Network Rail managed the construction of new junctions, both flyovers and dive-unders, power supply upgrades and longer platforms to accommodate the 200m long trains.

Regional news:


  • Electrification to Corby.

This £1.5billion upgrade brought an uplift of 50% more seats for passengers travelling at peak times between London and Corby on cleaner, greener, electric trains, along with faster journeys between London and Derby, Leicester, Sheffield and Nottingham.  Electric trains emit 80% fewer emissions than diesel trains. More details and pictures here.

  • New station for Soham.

The £18.6 million station, funded by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority, including £1million in Local Growth Deal support, has been constructed over 12 months by Network Rail and its contractor, J Murphy and Sons Ltd close to the site of the old station that closed in 1965. The original completion date was brought forward by five months to help deliver the benefits of a new station sooner for the community. More details and pictures here.

  • King’s Cross uncrossed!

The massive project to replace 40-year-old tracks and create a new track layout on the 1.5-mile approach into the station as part of the £1.2 billion East Coast Upgrade saw the reopening of a disused tunnel after 44 years and the addition of two lines into the station from the north. More details and pictures here.

  • Leeds station upgrade

Our project included replacing the signalling control system and installing a new modern system to increase capacity, demolishing and reconstructing platform 1, alterations to platforms 2, 3, 4 and 5, remodelling the track and overhead electrical lines (OLE) on the approaches to platform 0-3 to allow functionality for parallel working and increased capacity and remodelling track and OLE into platform 4-6 to allow greater operational flexibility and accommodate services from Leeds NW into platform 4 and 5

More details and pictures here.

  • East Coast Digital Programme

A £1.4bn project bringing ETCS cab signalling to the southern end of the East Coast Main Line, the first intercity main line to be fitted with the equipment since the Thameslink “core”, the project will revolutionise how trains are run on this vital route. Trains on the Northern City Line to Moorgate have been signalled digitally since the launch in November 2023.

More details on the programme here.

North West & Central:

  • Stalybridge Remodelling

Rebuilding Stalybridge is a crucial part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade and will be completed a week after the start of CP7. The junction rebuilding was completed in December 2023 and the overall project will see over 2km of new track, 25 new signals, 54 new switches and crossing components overhead line equipment installed. All this work will increase the reliability and speed of trains passing through the area. More details and pictures here.

  • Commonwealth Games in Birmingham

Athletes, sports fans and rail passengers from around the world were thanked by Network Rail for an amazing 12 days as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games came to an end. Over the 12 days of the games, more than 2 million people passed through Birmingham New Street, which later became the home for Ozzy the Bull. More on the games here and Ozzy here.

  • Birmingham New Street signalbox opens to public after resignalling

After 56 years, Birmingham New Street signalbox called it a day and was opened for tours for one day only. The £700m project to resignal the West Midlands reached its end in December 2022 with closure of the box. More details and pictures on the tours here and the resignalling here.

  • Iconic Ribblehead Viaduct repaired

From November 2020 to April 2021, 100ft high scaffolding towers moved across seven of the viaduct’s 24 arches to carry out masonry, drainage and repainting work.  The £2.1m investment as part of the Great North Rail Project secured the Grade II* listed structure's future as both an historic landmark and vital railway link on the Settle-Carlisle railway line. You can find more details and pictures here.

  • Trent Valley Upgrade work

During a nine-day railway closure of the West Coast Main Line in July 2023, Network Rail replaced 2,000 metres of track, 3,000 new railway sleepers and laid 2,500 tonnes ballast at Colwich Junction, as well as installing new signalling equipment for trains in the Trent Valley area. It was all part of a £85m investment in the railway and also saw a route for HS2’s trains dug under the main line at Lichfield. More details, pictures and timelapse here.


  • Incredible rebuilding of Glasgow Queen Street

A £120m four-year Scottish Government-funded transformation of Queen Street was unveiled by then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in October 2021, giving passengers a spectacular welcome to Glasgow with much better facilities.  More details and pictures here.

  • Remodelling of vital Carstairs to improve reliability and flexibility for passengers and freight.

July 2023 marked the completion of a 12-week, £164m Scottish Government investment to fully remodel the junction, making it more reliable and better able to cope with future passenger and freight demands. More details and pictures here.

  • New stations opened at East Linton, Kintore, Inverness Airport, Robroyston and Reston.

East Linton’s new £15m railway station welcomed its first passengers in December 2023 as the town re-joined the rail network after almost six decades. It was the fifth new station opened by Scotland’s Railway in CP6 – a record for any Network Rail region. More details and pictures here.

  • Electrification of the Glasgow Central to Barrhead line

The £63.3m electrification saw a six-week closure of the line in mid 2023, reopening in August.  Over 70,000 hours were worked during the six-week closure and activity included installing 14,400 metres of overhead power cables (contact and catenary) and renewing 130 metres of track. More details and pictures here.

  • Argyle Line renewal

The Argyle Line through Glasgow closed on March 13 2023 to allow engineers to deliver a £32m investment in repairing and renewing tunnels, bridges and tracks between Rutherglen and Exhibition Centre, reopening in May that year. Engineers removed 500 tonnes of concrete encasement from the tunnels, with 700 structural beams repainted and more than 1,000 square metres of waterproofing applied.  More details and pictures here.


  • Brighter and better Gatwick Airport station opens for passengers

A huge project to create a new station concourse and entrance at Gatwick Airport completed in November 2023, doubling the space available to the millions of passengers who use the station each year Eight new escalators and five new lifts providing significantly enhanced accessibility as well as four new stairways and widened platforms. More details and pictures here.

  • Major boost for freight as Southampton upgrade completed

In February 2021 engineers finished a series of improvements on the lines used by freight trains between Southampton Central and Redbridge, unlocking more capacity at the country’s second busiest container port. Trains once restricted to 520 metres in length can now be extended up to 775 metres in length, or 14 extra containers per train. More details and pictures here.

  • Boost for reliability as massive Feltham and Wokingham resignalling completed

In February 2024, engineers closed out Wokingham signalbox, marking the end of a £375m resignalling scheme covering over 80 miles of railway around Feltham and Wokingham.  More pictures and details here.

  • New station opens at Thanet Parkway

Kent’s first new railway station for many years opened in summer 2023, as part of Kent County Council’s plan to build transport to unlock development in the county. The £23m station brings the capital closer to the coast with 70 minute journey times and opens up Thanet to new jobs and new business as well as offers new connections for leisure journeys in East Kent. More details and pictures here.

  • Victoria Resignalling

The first phases of the massive Victoria resignalling programme, replacing control and signalling in areas covered by Victoria signalling centre in Clapham are complete with more to come. The first phase of signalling and track upgrades, between London Victoria, Clapham Junction and Balham saw delays to Southern and Gatwick Express services cut by 55%. Upgrades between Tulse Hill, Peckham Rye and Crystal Palace, and between Herne Hill, Nunhead, and the Battersea are now fully underway and will continue until 2025.  More details and maps here.

Wales and Western:

  • Okehampton celebrates

Okehampton celebrates return of regular passenger services after gap of almost 50 years

In November 2021 the Dartmoor Line between Okehampton and Exeter reopened following a project delivered in partnership with Great Western Railway (GWR) and Devon County Council. Since then, 200,000 people have enjoyed travelling on its trains. The project was the first to be delivered under the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway programme. Network Rail laid over 11 miles of track, replaced 24,000 concrete sleepers and installed nearly 29,000 tonnes of ballast. More details and pictures here.

  • Dawlish renewed

Dawlish sea wall rebuilt, protecting the South West’s main line for years to come

In July 2023 Network Rail, the wider rail industry, the local council and local school pupils joined Secretary of State for Transport, The Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, in Dawlish, Devon, to mark the completion and official opening of the £80m sea wall. The completion of the sea wall project marked a significant milestone in Network Rail’s efforts to enhance the resilience and reliability of the railway in the south west, which was cut in two during a massive storm in 2014. More details and pictures in here.

  • Ebbw Vale and Newport connected

The completion of a multi-million-pound transformation of the Ebbw Vale line meant the introduction of direct train services between Ebbw Vale Town and Newport. Direct hourly trains will continue to run between Ebbw Vale Town and Cardiff, effectively doubling the number of trains serving the valley. The £70m brand-new track and station enhancements were funded by the Welsh Government via a loan to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, with the Department for Transport and Network Rail providing a further £22m to deliver signalling upgrades and the replacement of Crumlin River bridge. More details here.

  • Barmouth rebuilt

The completion of the £30m restoration of the iconic Barmouth Viaduct in north Wales was celebrated in December 2023 after a painstaking four-year programme of work to carefully restore the 156-year-old, grade II* listed structure, back to its former glory and protect it for generations to come. More details and pictures here.

  • Estuary Line resilient

The Severn Estuary Line reopened in August 2023 after a massive three-week project to improve its resilience to landslips More than 100 engineers worked round the clock to install an ‘active’ mesh system on the cliffs overlooking the exposed railway between Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire. The teams worked more than 34,000 hours, with trained specialist rope access technicians abseiling down the cliff face, removing 1,000 tonnes of loose material before securing the specially designed netting with 5,000 rock bolts.  More details here.

Closing remarks:

Now CP6 has come to an end, and around £4bn of efficiencies successfully delivered, we look forward to our next five year period - CP7 - where we'll be looking to tackle the challenges of improving train performance whilst wrestling with climate change. More to come on that soon...

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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.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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