The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today set out its final determination on Network Rail’s £35bn plans (£31bn in England and Wales and £4bn in Scotland) to make Britain’s railway more reliable and focused on passengers’ needs. The plans cover the five years from 1 April 2019, known as Control Period 6 (CP6).
Network Rail has responded to ORR’s challenge to further develop the company’s draft plans to improve reliability. The regulator has now approved £24.3bn to be spent in Great Britain on maintaining (£7.7bn) and renewing (£16.6bn) the existing railway, with renewal work seeing a 17% increase from the £14.2bn in CP5. For both passengers and freight operators this will help cut delays caused by infrastructure failures, such as track defects. The ORR’s increase in the Performance Innovation Fund from £10m (in our draft determination) to £40m will support the testing and implementation of new ideas from across industry to improve punctuality.
The ORR has confirmed Network Rail’s plans for a significant funding and resource boost for its timetabling and planning functions, with the System Operator’s forecast spend almost doubling from around £145m in CP5 to over £270m in CP6 enabling this part of Network Rail to employ around 100 new staff from the current total of around 700.
The five-year plans will see Network Rail become much more locally focused, with each of its eight geographic routes having its own budget, delivery plans and scorecards. In addition, ORR has strengthened local routes’ ability to buy goods and services they need locally rather than centrally, where it offers better value for money. This is an important part of giving more responsibility to Network Rail’s routes, which are best placed to deliver for local passengers and freight users.
With over 1.7bn passenger journeys being made in 2017/18, it is vital that innovation keeps pace with changing needs and ensures that the network continues to provide a good service to passengers and freight customers. To assist with this, a £245m research and development fund will be available over the five years to help develop new technology that improves industry’s performance or efficiency. The use of this fund is contingent on additional governance arrangements being agreed between Network Rail and the ORR.
ORR has consulted widely and received valuable contributions and responses from stakeholders, including consumer groups, industry, and Network Rail. ORR has confirmed plans to simplify industry charges and incentives, including scrapping outdated mechanisms and capping charges for freight and charter operators.
John Larkinson, Chief Executive, ORR said: “Today’s decisions mean that Network Rail, its routes and its system operator can now press forward with their plans to deliver a service which passengers and freight customers rightly demand and deserve.
“These plans are focused on improving performance for passengers and freight operators by getting the basics right – ensuring that the railway is properly maintained and renewed, and on improving the daily operation of the railway.
“There is no time to lose; Network Rail and, in particular, the routes and system operator must make sure they are ready to deliver from day one of the new control period. That is why we have and will continue to report on – and where necessary challenge – Network Rail’s readiness.”