Network Rail reveal £4.1bn of spending but ORR calls for more work before CP6

Bosses at Network Rail say a record £4.1bn was spent on Britain’s railways last year with major projects like the redevelopment of London Bridge and the £85m Ordsall Chord Project highlighted as successful schemes being delivered on time and on budget. 

The organisation says 2017/18 saw “a continued focus” on transforming Network Rail into a more “customer-focused, cost competitive organisation” with the reliability and performance of infrastructure assets continuing at high levels - up 15% on last year. 

However, the operator has conceded train performance as a whole was “not good as it should have been” and timetable changes had led to significant disruption. Investment into the UK’s railways has also led to debt levels rise to £51.3bn compared to £46.3bn in 2016/17. The rise is said to be planned and the approach will be changed for CP6 with investment projects being fully funded by grant and/or third party investment.

The investment package has also resulted in a number of stations across the country being opened or significantly upgraded throughout the year, including Cambridge North, Ilkeston, Kenilworth, Maghull North, and Low Moor in Bradford.

Jeremy Westlake, chief financial officer of Network Rail, admitted that lessons had been learnt from disruptive May timetable changes Network Rail’s focus remained “fixing the issues as quickly as possible”. 

He added: “Our railways are congested and the huge investment in our railway, encapsulated in the railway upgrade plan, is vital to provide more capacity for services that are coming on stream now, and will continue to do so over the coming months and years. Track and train are working ever closer together to deliver thousands of new services."

The publication of annual records comes on the same day as The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) set out its annual assessment of Network Rail’s performance. The regulator has concluded the organisation needed to do more to prepare for its £34bn five-year plan for CP6 which starts on 1 April 2019.

However, it did state safety on Britain’s railway remains good, with no worker fatalities or industry-caused passenger deaths on Network Rail’s infrastructure or stations in 2017/18 and that network reliability overall had improved, with the operator achieving a 1.7% reduction in the number of infrastructure-related failures.

Joanna Whittington, ORR’s chief executive, said: “Passengers and freight customers rely on Network Rail to deliver a high-quality service every day. Our assessment shows that it is delivering well on safety, but a significant improvement is required to make it more efficient and to address the very poor levels of performance which many passengers are currently experiencing. Network Rail’s route plans for the next five years are an opportunity for a step change in efficient delivery, but that can only happen if all the routes are prepared to hit the ground running from day one. At the moment it is clear more needs to be done to ensure this is the case.”

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email