Network Rail puts environment and passengers at heart of five-year plan

2 min read

UK rail infrastructure manager Network Rail has published its £44bn, five-year plan (2024-2029, Control Period 7 – CP7) for the railway in England and Wales that sees increased investment in tackling climate change, improving train performance from current levels, investing in things that matter most to passengers and freight users, and making the railway even greener.

In December last year the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) published two key documents. One set out what it wanted the railway to deliver (High Level Output Statement – HLOS) and the other, how much funding it was making available (Statement of Funds Available – SoFA). Over the past two years, and more intensively over the past three months, Network Rail has been working on plans to deliver the best railway it can for the money available - £44.1bn, which, after adjusting for changes in electricity costs, is £1.8bn more than the previous five-year plan (2019-2024).

Whilst funding for enhancements to the railway is no longer included in this funding settlement, the government has already committed substantial investment – some £96bn – in the Integrated Rail Plan, with a substantial portion of these funds being delivered in projects during CP7.

Sitting below the national overview are four more detailed, regional plans for England and Wales, and plans for national functions. Scotland’s Railway continues to align CP7 plans with Scottish Ministers’ HLOS and SoFA, which was published in early February 2023. Network Rail aims to publish the final Scotland CP7 SBP in Summer 2023.

The plan for England and Wales includes investment in the reduction of emissions and targeted net-zero initiatives, focusing on meeting government objectives for biodiversity, air quality and waste.

It also recognizes the need to improve performance over the remainder of CP6 and giving passengers and freight users the highest level of train performance possible in CP7, and more than doubles investment – to £1.6bn – in tackling climate change and making the railway more resilient and sustainable.

The plan also includes investments in technology and innovation, such as remote monitoring for maintenance requirements, and next generation signaling.

Furthermore, the plans include investment in technology and research and development and will facilitate the introduction of major projects such as the 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 network.

Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines said, “As we look to the next five years, the government’s commitment to invest £44bn in the operations, maintenance and renewal of England and Wales’s railway is a clear indication of the strong economic value rail brings to Britain.

“Our plan for CP7 is ambitious, focused on our passengers and customers and reflects the current complexities and challenges facing the industry. There will no doubt be obstacles ahead and I look forward to working collaboratively with the sector to deliver this plan, reshape the industry and build a railway that is fit 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 and SoFA 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.