Network Rail has submitted its strategic business plan to the Office of Rail Regulation for approval. If approved, the investment in new infrastructure will boost capacity at key pinch points on the network, providing 170,000 extra commuter seats at peak times by 2019. This is in addition to the HS2 project, which Network Rail said was also essential to help out the West Coast Main Line.
The plan also sets out flood protection measures and an upgrade of key freight routes to accommodate bigger containers.
Network Rail chief executive David Higgins said: "One million more trains run every year than ten years ago, more passengers arrive on time than ever before, our safety record is one of the best in Europe and, despite the daily challenges we face, customer satisfaction is at record levels. Successive governments have made this possible by looking beyond the short term and recognising the critical importance of the railway to Britain's future.
"As our railway gets busier the challenges get bigger and more complex. We have entered an era of trade-offs. Increasingly we have to balance the need to build more infrastructure, run trains on time and cut costs, and in many areas choices will need to be made.”
Alongside the strategic business plan, Network Rail has also published an accompanying document, A Better Railway for a Better Britain, outlining 10 commitments, including investing in new technology, building partnerships with customers and suppliers and investing in infrastructure today to save costs and improve safety.
Mr Higgins continued: “As an industry we have achieved a huge amount, but we are already seeing the benefit of working more closely together with our customers and suppliers and that must remain at the heart of everything we do. Our aim is to be a trusted leader in the industry as we work to build a better railway for a better Britain.”
Aims of the five-year strategic business plan for 2014 to 2019 (known as control period five, or CP5) include:
- Move 225 million more passengers per year and carry 355,000 more trains – the highest numbers ever seen on Britain’s railways
- Provide 20% extra morning peak seats into central London and 32% into large regional cities in England and Wales
- Deliver ‘a step change in connectivity between regional centres’ e.g. 700 more trains a day linking key northern cities and a 10 minute reduction in journey time between Manchester and Leeds
- Carry 30% more freight than today
- Maintain performance levels, with expected public performance measure (PPM) of 92.5% by the end of CP5
- Protect 30,000 bridges, embankments and tunnels against flooding and other severe weather
- Cut CO2 emissions per passenger by 37% – the equivalent of one million lorries off of the congested roads – with hundreds of miles more electrified railway
- Reducing risk at level crossings by 8%
- Continue to modernise signalling equipment as part of a plan to move away from over 800 signal boxes to 14 major operations centres, allowing trains to run closer together
- Reduce the cost of running the railways by £3.1bn (18%) and cut annual public subsidy to between £2.6bn and £2.9bn in 2019 – down from £4.5bn in 2009 and £7bn in 2004.
Key projects in the programm of works include:
• Removing the biggest bottleneck on the Great Western Main Line by rebuilding the railway in and around Reading station (£900m)
• Completing the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station (£600m)
• Delivering the Northern Hub project (£560m) which increases rail capacity across the north of England by 700 services per day
• Electrifying more than 850 miles of railway including the Great Western and Midland Main Lines and introducing new, more reliable and quicker trains
• Supporting development of the High Speed 2 project to relieve capacity constraints on the West Coast Main Line
• Connecting Oxford with Bedford and Milton Keynes as part of the East West Rail project, which will provide a new, electrified railway linking the Great Western, West Coast and Midland Main Lines.
• Reconnecting the border towns of Scotland with Edinburgh by reopening 31 miles of railway closed by Beeching in the 1960s (£300m Borders rail project)
• Improving the route between Aberdeen and Inverness resulting in better commuter services and a new station at Kintore.
• Electrifying the Great Western Main Line to Swansea
• Electrifying the Cardiff Valley lines
• Major resignalling work bringing more reliable services in the north of the country between Flint and Llandudno
• Increasing the number of seats for passengers in London by 20% during the busiest times of day
• Completing the Thameslink upgrade programme (£6bn)
• Rebuilding and remodelling London Bridge station
• Completing the surface elements of the Crossrail project (£2.3bn)
• £200m investment in the strategic freight network.