Network Rail’s £37.5bn plan to improve trains

 
Marion Dakers
NETWORK Rail yesterday set out its £37.5bn plan to improve Britain’s railways in the five years to 2019, including a 20 per cent rise in seats for London’s peak time commuters.

The investment plan, if approved, will be funded by a combination of subsidy, more borrowing and above-inflation fare increases.

The money spent on upgrading the country’s rail infrastructure, much of which was built in the Victorian era, is higher than Network Rail had set out last year.

But chief executive David Higgins said in yesterday’s report: “We should never be afraid to make the case to invest today to reduce public subsidy in the years ahead.”

Commuters into London will be provided with 115,000 extra seats during the morning peak by 2019, a rise of a fifth, as well as extra space to stand. The plans include a total of 170,000 extra commuter seats nationwide.

The firm also plans to cut the cost of running the rail network by a further 18 per cent in the period, and reduce the annual taxpayer subsidy from a peak of £7bn in 2004 to around £2.9bn in 2019.

Network Rail hopes to do this through centralising operations, standardising maintenance and securing better contracts with partners.

The Office of Rail Regulation will now comb through the plans “to ensure every penny is made to count”.

NETWORK RAIL’S AMBITIOUS STRATEGY

Network Rail, which is responsible for maintaining the railways, wants to spend £37.5bn on infrastructure between 2014 and 2019

The upgrades are needed to bring the Victorian-era network up to date and cope with soaring passenger numbers, which are set to double between now and 2035 under NR’s projections

Staff numbers will be cut by 1,200 during the period, as NR centralises some operations and switches to new systems

This centralisation will see 800 signal boxes replaced with 14 operational centres

Specific upgrade plans include electrifying the Great Western Line, bringing the platforms at Waterloo International back into use and creating a Northern Hub at Manchester that will see 700 more trains a day linking key northern cities

NR also thinks the controversial High Speed 2 route between London, Birmingham and the North needs to be built to cope with expected surges in demand

NR hopes to shift 30 per cent more freight onto the railways by 2019, as part of its efforts to become more green

To try and make better use of newer technology, NR wants to increase research and development expenditure from £2m this year to £150m a year by 2019

The proposals will be scrutinised by the Office of Rail Regulation before getting the official green light in October. Network Rail will set out a final plan in March 2014