Record investment in improving the railway and improved safety record at the centre of Network Rail's year: Network Rail orange army upgrading railway overnight

Wednesday 19 Jul 2017

Record investment in improving the railway and improved safety record at the centre of Network Rail's year

  • Record £3.9bn spend on enhancements
  • Exceptional safety record continues
  • Reliability and performance of infrastructure assets now best on record
  • Cost efficiencies remain challenging
  • Train performance below industry expectations owing to increased congestion, severe weather and industrial action

A record £3.9 billion was spent on enhancing Britain’s railway last year, 10 percent more than in any previous year, according to Network Rail’s annual report published today. Almost all significant project milestones were met, although two were not – Gospel Oak to Barking electrification, and one on the Edinburgh to Glasgow improvement project. The report also highlights that the company’s exceptional safety record has continued to improve in both workforce and passenger safety.

In 2016/17 there was a renewed focus on transforming Network Rail into a more customer-focussed, cost competitive organisation. The benefits of devolution have started to be realised in the last year, with significant additional responsibility now being exercised by the nine route managing directors and their leadership teams. This has resulted in greater accountability with more decisions being made at a local level.

Route performance targets are now developed with train operating companies, and the first ever route supervisory board was launched, bringing train and track closer together to deliver for passengers.

Nearly a quarter of the UK’s total spend on infrastructure is being delivered through Network Rail on its Railway Upgrade Plan. This has seen strong progress this year including:

  • In August, the first part of the new London Bridge station concourse was opened, which was constructed whilst the station remained open for the 50 million passengers who use it every year.
  • In September, the Dover-Folkestone railway was reopened three months ahead of schedule. The sea wall at Dover, along with 250 metres of track, collapsed in the Christmas Eve storms of 2015 and it took 200 people and more than 90,000 tonnes of rock to re-build.
  • In December, the first new rail link between a major British city and London in more than 100 years was completed, with the opening of the Oxford-Marylebone line.

The reliability and performance of our infrastructure assets improved further this year and is now the best on record. But for a number of reasons including increasing congestion, severe weather and industrial action, train performance as a whole has not been what the industry would have liked.

Cost efficiency remains a challenge for Network Rail, largely due to increased supply chain costs compared to regulatory assumptions in 2012, as well as much less access to the railway than was assumed then given the rapid rise in early morning and late night trains. The Board has put in place a plan to ensure the organisation keeps within its financial budget for the remainder of the control period which will see some non-essential renewals work postponed. The company is also further reviewing its plans for the next control period (CP6) to better understand where further efficiencies can be made.

The annual report identifies progress in the Digital Railway programme, outlining that where digital solutions have the potential to significantly increase much needed capacity on Britain’s railways, business cases have been developed.

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chair said: “Britain’s railways create growth, jobs and housing through connectivity; they are a remarkable success story. We have seen the greatest passenger growth in the last ten years of any European country and we are also Europe’s safest major railway.

“I am very proud of the efforts of Network Rail’s teams and contractors across the country, who work relentlessly to deliver a better railway for the millions of passengers who rely on us every day.

“The extraordinary growth in passenger numbers means the network is now full in many areas, and this congestion inevitably increases delays when anything goes wrong. It has also meant we have less access than ever before to make essential improvements. We are leading the way the whole rail industry operates in the years ahead, by both embracing new technologies and working ever more closely together to deliver the most effective and efficient outcomes for passengers. But there is much more to do to deliver the affordable and reliable railway our country needs."

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About Network Rail

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 38,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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