£45bn rail improvement plan begins

A landslip at Church Lawford in February closed the line between Coventry and Rugby - image: Network Rail

Network Rail today announced the start of its five-year, £45.4bn rail improvement plan.

The plan is aimed at delivering a simpler, better, greener railway that provides the best level of train performance possible and that’s more geared-up than ever before to cope with the extremes of climate change.

Network Rail is funded in five-year chunks, called control periods, with the current one - CP7 - running from 1 April 2024 to 31 March 2029. 

The funding and activity to be delivered is agreed in a long and complex three-year process working closely with the Office of Rail and Road, the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland.

Over the course of CP7 Network Rail will spend:

  • £19.3bn on renewals (replacing old assets with new as well as investing in other capital expenditure to create a railway fit for the future, such as digital signalling).
  • £12.6bn on maintenance with regions spending 6% more on maintenance activity compared with CP6.
  • £5.3bn on support functions (safety and standards, timetabling, IT, HR).
  • £4.4bn on operations (signalling, stations, network controls).
  • £1.8bn ‘risk fund’ for significant unforeseen events.

Over the five years to 2029, Network Rail will invest around £2.8bn in activities and technology that will help it better cope with extreme weather and climate change.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “Climate change is the biggest challenge our railway faces. The extreme weather of the past year that has seen an unprecedented 14 named storms, has taken its toll on our railway – with experts predicting more of the same to come. 

“We are responding to that challenge with a huge investment in making our railway more resilient and better performing for rail users during such events.”

Plans include increased investment in looking after thousands of miles of drains, cuttings and embankments to make them more weather resilient and recruitment of almost 400 extra drainage engineers.

Hundreds of key operational staff will attend Network Rail’s new ‘weather academy’ so they can interpret forecasts and make better operation decisions such as when and where to slow trains in stormy conditions

And more than 600,000 metres of drains will be built or rebuilt, redesigned or see increased maintenance.

Haines added: “Delivering a better railway for passengers and freight users is at the heart of our new five-year investment plan. 

“Tackling climate change, safely improving train performance, adapting and responding to changing commuter habits whilst managing an ageing infrastructure requires the whole industry to rally for the benefits of all rail users.

“Whilst there are challenges and opportunities ahead, our mission is constant - we’re here to connect people and goods with where they need to be. 

“The railway is part of the fabric of our everyday lives and has been for generations. It provides essential services to society, underpinning economic growth and our plans will support that over the next five years – a period that will mark the railway’s bi-centenary.”

Network Rail’s focus on improving train performance will include:

  • Reducing the impact of external factors, including weather impact, fatalities, trespass and vandalism.
  • Reducing infrastructure failures with more than 5,000 kms of track being targeted for replacement or heavy maintenance as well as over 3,000 sets of points  and heavy investment in new signalling.
  • Building the capability of the workforce with investment in training and new technology to improve decision making and cross-industry working.
  • Improving timetables to remove bottlenecks, conflicts and unrealistic timings at and between stations.
  • Faster recovery from incidents so fewer trains and customers are delayed when things happen.


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