Network Rail to slash train delays by 15 per cent in £47bn five-year business plan

 
Rebecca Smith
London Bridge station has been undergoing a £1bn revamp
London Bridge station has been undergoing a £1bn revamp (Source: Network Rail)

Network Rail has unveiled plans to slash the number of delays by 15 per cent in its £47bn five-year business plan, as it looks to switch focus away from big new projects.

The strategy, spanning 2019 to 2024, aims to result in 1,000 extra services a day by 2021, with a 25 per cent rise in funding to try and tackle delays and improve reliability through day-to-day improvements.

Many future projects will be developed "on a case-by-case basis", after work on large projects in recent years, such as the £7bn Thameslink programme. Projects will then be put before funders for a decision, Network Rail said. Other schemes may need additional funding: it said it is looking into ways to find new sources of funding, "that do not rely on the taxpayer".

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Network Rail's publication of the initial plan follows the government's confirmation of the statements of funds available. In October, the government said a direct grant of up to £34.7bn will be provided for spending between 2019 and 2024, and the Department for Transport said total spending will be around £47.9bn.

The business plan will now go before regulator Office of Rail and Road for review with a final decision expected in the autumn.

Network Rail, which controls 2,500 stations as well as tracks and tunnels on Britain's rail network, works on five-year periods agreed with the government to keep tabs on the work taking place and ensure money is being spent effectively.

Other targets set in the plan include efforts to improve Network Rail's gender balance and the health and wellbeing of its workforce. It intends to reduce mental health absence by 30 per cent and increase the number of women employed by 50 per cent.

It had already revealed a median gender pay gap of 11 per cent in its report published to meet the government's request that all organisations with more than 250 employees must provide gender pay gap data.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said:

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 need.

Earlier this month, Carne said he intends to step down later this year. His replacement will be established in the role before the start of the next five year regulatory control period, which begins next April.

Carne said he leaves "knowing that the railway is in good hands and has a great plan for the future".

Read more: Network Rail gets £48bn in funding as major rail upgrades get a shake-up

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