Posted 13th February 2018 | 2 Comments

Fewer Network Rail ‘mega projects’ in CP6

THE first details of Network Rail’s Strategic Plan for the five years from 2019 have been revealed. The investment emphasis will be different, with fewer ‘mega projects’ such as London Bridge on the agenda in Control Period 6.

The administration of Network Rail was also complicated during CP5 when the organisation became a public body in September 2014. This meant that NR was no longer free to raise investnent funds on the open commercial market and now depends largely on Treasury funding.

The CP6 budget consists of £10.1 billion for enhancements (mostly continuing the projects started in CP5), £18.5 billion on operations and maintenance, and a further £18.5 billion on renewals.

NR faces a major challenge in the next three Control Periods. For example, 63 per cent of signals will need replacement during the next 15 years. This means in practice that colour lights installed in the 1960s and 1970s may have to be renewed before some semaphore signals. These employ a much older but still robust technology, which can continue to be used on suitable lines.

The status of the routes is also set to change again as devolution continues, with each route likely to get its own regulatory settlement from CP7.

Outgoing chief executive Mark Carne has outlined some other priorities, which include ‘aligned objectives’ with train operators, bringing track and train closer together. Targets also include reducing train accident risk by 10 per cent and level crossing risk by 13 per cent compared with today’s levels of rail traffic.

Non-traction energy consumption is set to come down by 18 per cent, and absences due to mental health need to come down by 30 per cent, although as mental problems become more acceptable in the railway culture the number of absences caused by them could rise for a while.

Safety continues to be the key priority, and this covers employees driving to and from Network Rail sites as well as those at work on the railway itself. Five employees of Network Rail or contractors have been killed in road traffic accidents since 2014, and a common element was a failure to wear seatbelts.

Mr Carne said: “Passengers’ journeys will be transformed in the next few years as thousands of new trains enter service. By 2021 there will be almost 350,000 more services per year than today – an average of an extra 1,000 services a day, better connecting communities and driving economic growth across the country.

"This plan builds on these improvements and sets out how we will make the railway more reliable and cost efficient and how we accelerate the technological transformation of our railway into the digital age.

“We will continue our strategy to work more closely with train and freight operators, working together in partnership to continue to expand the network for the millions more who will want and need it in the years ahead.

“It is an ambitious, but realistic plan that is not without challenge, but with great people working together in great teams, it can deliver the better railway that a better Britain needs.” 

Mr Carne himself is moving on, and he could depart within the next three to six months, “although I am willing to stay longer if necessary”.

He added that it had been “a huge privilege to do this job”, and that he is “utterly determined to hand over this business in the best possible way”.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    One of the biggest issues in CP5 was Electrification which was used by the Cameron Government prior to 2015 to issue promises of electrification at PMQs, Treasury Questions and Transport Questions it was nearly getting to the situation of promising electrification of Isle of Wight Stream Railway if it meant gaining an extra Parliamentary seat !

    While it ended with GWR electrification going way over budget and more logical MML electrification abandoned yet again .

    As for CP6 perhaps it's time to take on board Sir Peter Hendy suggestion that electrification should be done like track renewal with a set budget per year to electrify lines with some going towards major projects like GWR and MML and some going towards infill electrification or removing Diesel islands in largely electrified areas .

    The development of hybrid trains should be seen as a bridge towards electrification and not as a long term solution given they are still diesel trains and often less efficient than full diesel trains like HST or fully electric trains which don't have to haul added weight of diesel motors and fuel !

    As for lack of major projects well the original Thameslink scheme which reopened Snow Hill Tunnel linking Farringdon to Blackfriars Station began as a simple scheme so perhaps more smaller schemes joining together lines might prove more useful. Just imagine a Crossrail style tunnel linking London Bridge ( Southern services) to Waterloo (SWT) with Crossrail stations at London Bridge, Waterloo and Battersea/ Vauxhall before joining lines at Clapham Junction- Crossrail South

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley

    While mega projects may not figure in the headlines for CP6 committed franchise plans introducing new rolling stock & services will have a clear impact on the network. The challenge for NR is to ensure that the network is capable of supporting the aspirations of the franchise holders. Already the part of the collapse of the ECML intercity franchise is being blamed on alleged timely non delivery of infrastructure improvements planned into CP6.

    The migration of signalling & control into the ROc's has been taking place for several years now & as further renewals are undertaken should have an important impact on capacity and control of the network. The reintegration of control between the train operators and NR has shown the importance of aligning the operating & engineering functions to efficiently operate the railway. Hopefully those infrastructure projects that are progressed during CP6 will be through shared objectives & may we hope that projects currently stalled such as the Trans Pennine route modernisation & hopefully full electrification can be at last be brought to fruition.