UK’s ORR approves Network Rail’s £35bn railway improvement plan

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) in the UK has approved Network Rail’s £35bn plan to improve and modernise the railway system.

The approval followed consultation with all major industry stakeholders, including consumer groups and Network Rail.

The five-year plan known as Control Period 6 (CP6) will commence on 1 April next year and aims to increase the reliability of railway services.

ORR chief executive John Larkinson said: “Today’s decisions mean that Network Rail, its routes and its system operator can now press forward with their plans to deliver a service which passengers and freight customers rightly demand and deserve.

“These plans are focused on improving performance for passengers and freight operators by getting the basics right; ensuring that the railway is properly maintained and renewed and improving the daily operation of the railway.”

Network Rail has allocated £31bn for rail works in England and Wales and £4bn in Scotland. In Great Britain, around £24.3bn will be utilised to maintain (£7.7bn) and refurbish (£16.6bn) the existing railway systems.

The investment is expected to reduce operational delays due to infrastructure failures such as track defects.

ORR has also increased the Performance Innovation Fund from £10m to £40m in order to encourage the implementation of innovations that will increase the punctuality of services.

A £245m research and development fund will be made available over five years to support the development of technology to manage growing passenger numbers and improve service efficiency.

The agency also approved Network Rail’s plans to increase funding in timetabling and planning functions from £145m in CP5 to more than £270m in CP6.