Posted 29th September 2011 | 13 Comments

Network Rail unveils its grand five-year plan for growth

NETWORK RAIL has unveiled its multi-billion pound plan for tomorrow's railway – which it hopes to be building during the next five-year Control Period, starting in 2014.

With demand for passenger and freight capacity apparently set to rise indefinitely, Network Rail has painted a broad picture which includes major projects, some of which are new. The additions include options to extend electrification from Bedford to Sheffield, on North Transpennine routes and on several lines in Strathclyde.

Network Rail demonstrated that is acutely conscious of the pressure on spending, when it commented: 'The Initial Industry Plan sets out how the industry could build on recent improvements in cost efficiency and cut the cost of running the railway by £1.3 billion a year by 2019. These savings, combined with growth, could see the annual cost of the railway to the taxpayer reduced. This would be achieved through initiatives already in hand, greater cross-industry collaboration and changes in the way government procures passenger rail services.'

Thameslink, Crossrail and presently authorised electrification schemes come in at just under £5 billion, and the additional schemes would add an extra £5.6 billion to the capital projects budget. These include the Northern Hub, based on Manchester, as well as further electrification.

Network Rail group strategy director Paul Plummer said: "The railways are booming, with more and more people choosing rail. Closer collaboration within the industry will deliver even more efficiencies. This revenue growth and improved efficiency taken together provide governments with real choices to consider, choices around the appropriate balance between investment, fares and subsidy."

The plans have received broad approval from industry bodies such as ATOC and the watchdog Passenger Focus, although Passenger Focus added a warning. Its chief executive Anthony Smith promised to read the plan carefully, saying: “Passengers want value for money fares and a reliable, frequent service with a good chance of getting a seat. An industry plan is welcome but what passengers will want to be clear about is what is the passenger plan? What does this all mean for train performance, the ability to get a seat – and fares?”

Long negotiations lie ahead with the Office of Rail Regulation before the budget for Control Period 5 can be agreed. But Network Rail described its new proposals as 'the first major step' towards adding an extra 180,000 peak hour seats and boosting freight tonne/kilometres by 30 per cent, while also cutting £1.3 billion from the industry's costs by 2019. 

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Joel Kosminsky, London, Britain

    It's a grand scheme, until... (1) it's only been valued to pass cost:benefit analysis, then watch real prices kick-in, and (2) the next whopping fine NetRail gets will cut the budget then kill part of the scheme. Instead of fining the company, prosecute the 'guiding mind' and if guilty, jail them. The trial alone and a possible sentence will stop short-cuts.

  • hugo rogers, Newbury, Berkshire

    If network rail rebuild some important lost lines in the beeching axes, which were deemed not used enough in the sixties, but which now would add either diversionary routes and / or new routes to serve areas that are expanding and have poor public transport access. This would also help the regeneration of the areas and provide easier ways to commute to work shopping going out than the road.

  • T Price, Nottingham, United Kingdom

    This is great news, but it doesn't go far enough. Whilst wiring up the MML they should do some other local lines while they are at it and in the area, Ambergate to Matlock, Derby to Stoke, Nottingham to Lincoln and maybe even the Robin Hood line. This would enable the replacement of a lot of poor performing DMU's for a minimal cost as it would be part of a bigger project and so the cost of materials, labour etc could be negotiated down.
    Also it is desirable that the Erewash Valley line, Kettering to Syston via Manton, Trent/Attenborough/Mansfield Jct to Trowell and Tapton to Sheffield via Beighton are done unless you want the fleet restricted to some form of Bi-mode train.

  • Lee, Manchester, England

    It is certainly encouraging that Network Rail is considering electrification of the MML as far as Sheffield, but why stop there? Surely it would make sense to extend electrification as far as the Doncaster-Leeds spur of the ECML so as to allow electric to fully replace diesel services on the MML between Leeds and Lobndon? It would also allow elctric units to be maintained at Neville Hill depot and, if the Transpennine route were electrified, would allow a through electric service from Liverpool to London via Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield with connection to Eurostar services at St Pancras. Might also be a heck of a lot cheaper than HS2!

    Meridian sets could be dual powered but why not transfer them to Cross counmtry, strengthening their fleet of 4 and 5-car trains to provide additional capacity on cross-country routes?

    One last point, to the contributor from Chester, Chester station is very much open and connected to the rail network, with services to North Wales, London, Manchester, Liverpool via Warrington and Merseyrail electric services to Liverpool Central. I seem to recall suggestions of extending electrification from Crewe to Chester a few years ago. Sounds like you have very good access to the rail network to me.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire, England

    But it's all at the mercy of our politicians and their civil servants - who are generally without vision and drive. (E.g. no electrification between Cardiff and Swansea because, 1) not enough trains, and 2) too much curvature.......yet they are happy with Valleys electrification where there will be 1) infrequent trains and 2) lots of curvature!!) Pah!!

  • Andrew Kinge, Brisbane, Australia

    Would the MML be a good test case for upgrading an existing rail line to high speed say 150-165 mph with High Speed Pendolino's running on this line allowing for the curvatious parts of the line. The line could be quadrupled all the way to Sheffied and then Leeds with high speed trains on the inner tracks and lcoal and freight services on the outer lines. Eliminating flat junctions with grade seperated ones. If Network Rail where serious this whole project could be completed by 2020 at least. The lessons learned could be applied to the ECML and GWML. I'm sure that the money allocated to HS2 could be better spent on upgrading the classic lines with lesor enviromental impact.

  • Peter Davidson, Alderley Edge, NW.England

    Perhaps Network Rail can be persuaded to print a small pamphlet detailing all of the infrastructure improvement/upgrade/construction schemes they are seeking to deliver over the coming years.

    This publication could then be produced everytime someone from the anti HS2 community pops up with the tired old cliché about investing in the classic rail network as an alternative.

    Development of a comprehensive High Speed Rail network for the rest of the UK, outside London/SE England, goes hand in hand with a strategic classic rail network programme of works - they are not mutually exclusive and neither one can substitute for the other!

  • Nick Furze, Plymouth

    When on earth is England going to start reopening old lines or new lines (excluding London). The government needs to increase spending on public projects to help stimulate the economy and reopening railway lines would increase existing capacity by having secondary routes and more branch lines which are seeing increased rail patronage.

  • David James, Hagley, Worcestershire, United Kingdom

    How about they electrify the Chiltern Main Line (including surrounding lines in and through Birmingham), Marylebone is the last London station to be completely diesel, and electrification of these lines would be a much needed investment!

    And also Network Rail, how about reopening OLD railway lines closed in the Beeching Axe, such as the South Staffordshire Line from Stourbridge to Walsall, the business plan of which has been submitted to you.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading, UK

    Life unfortunately is not certain.

    We have no idea if the UK will see growth, or stagnation in either areas of passengers or freight.

    A good plan would accommodate all possibilities.

    If rail fares and unemployment continue to rise then we might all see a huge drop in all forms of travel. Travel,- apart from commuting, is one of those areas that we can all cut back on.

  • Paul, Cumbria, UK

    If this does happen virtually the whole main line netwrk will be Electrified by the ends of the decade. This has been an industry dream since the 1960's. This level of investment eclipses even the 1956 Modernisation plan - if it happens.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island,Essex, England

    The plan to electrify the MML north of Bedford makes sense and would be better value if the non Meridians were upgraded to dual power with an extra carraige with a pantograph. This surely means that all Meridians and Voyagers should be converted as a single programme of work for Bombardier.

    Whilst looking at the plans for East West Ral I noticed there was a closed section of the ECML from Hitchin that used to link with the MML perhaps this branch should be re-opened and electrified thus allowing both a diversionary route between ECML and MML and a through route to divert freight trains on to the MML and off the crowded ECML.

    As for funding well with fares set to cover up to 75% costs and if Network Rail can earn more revenue via station and lineside development then most if not all this plan must stand a good chance of being delivered.

  • Geraint Griffiths, chester, England

    I'm still waiting for a station to come back to the town where I grew up... sadly not all of us have access to the railway.