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“Backbone of Britain” railway bolstered by five-year £5.7bn cash injection

Just days before Network Rail enters its next five-year funding cycle, its London-to-Carlisle region today has unveiled a £5.7bn plan to keep services running smoothly along Europe’s busiest mixed-used railway.

The London North Western (LNW) region runs the railway infrastructure in the Chilterns, West Midlands, North West, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria - accounting for 24% of the country’s railway network.

The West Coast main line which features prominently in the network connects main cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. 

In its funding package for the five years to 2024, government has given LNW, otherwise known as the “backbone of Britain”, £5.7bn for its vital operations, maintenance and renewals activities supporting the region’s business vision of “one team delivering brilliant service for customers and taxpayers.”

Money within that funding pot will go towards railway renewals (replacing track, bridges, points, embankments and structures), major resignalling and track remodelling at Crewe on the West Coast main line and the delivery of HS2.

Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines said this latest funding announcement fits in line with the organisation’s wider goals for CP6 and admits that performance in the last five years has been “nowhere near good enough”, insisting “this must change”.

“Passengers and freight users are at the heart of our plans over the next five years,” Haines added. “Our role is to deliver a railway that people can rely on, with trains that turn up and arrive at their destination on time, and where passengers have confidence they are in safe hands. This is what we must deliver daily and what we will, and should, be held to account for throughout CP6.”

Network Rail also recently announced a new organisational structure, further devolving the railway network from eight geographic routes to 13, organised into five regions. The London North Western region will be divided into north and south routes and will develop a strong partnership with the train operating companies in their area.

Martin Frobisher, managing director for LNW, said investment was vital to cope with growing demand as the latest data showing that passenger demand is forecast to rise by 12% in the five years to 2024.

“LNW is the Backbone of Britain. We connect workers with jobs, families with loved ones and goods with markets. Over the next five years our primary focus is delivering brilliant service for the growing numbers of customers who rely on us. Our £5.7bn funding for core activities is a huge vote of confidence in LNW. It is also a big responsibility. We start this five-year funding period with a better plan than ever before. Together as an industry, we will deliver for customers and taxpayers.”

Other significant activities in LNW’s 2019-to-2024 plan include:

  • Upgrading the signalling system for the Birmingham area
  • Construction of East West Rail Phase 2 - Bicester to Bedford
  • The introduction of new train fleets to improve capacity and reliability
  • Securing more than £300m of external funding for railway and station upgrades
  • Continued joint working with train companies to improve reliability of services in the North
  • Supporting the delivery of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham