THE Office of Rail and Road has issued its first assessment of Network Rail’s spending plans for the five-year control period which begins in April next year, and has called for NR to allocate more funds to reliability and safety in CP6.
The ORR said many passengers have been failed by poor performance in recent months, and that ‘strong planning’ is essential to improve performance. The standard of route-based plans has improved and provide a ‘foundation for improvement which passengers and freight customers rightly demand’.
Among the highlights in this draft determination are around £1 billion additional renewals work, bringing the total renewals budget to £18 billion.
There will be an extra £80 million for safety measures, including level crossings and worker safety initiatives.
With the adequacy of timetable planning coming under sharp focus, as disruption continues on Northern and Govia Thameslink, the ORR wants Network Rail to ‘strengthen the monitoring and financial controls on the Network Rail System Operator function, which manages the timetabling process for the industry’.
Other points include the capping of variable track access charges for freight and passenger charter operators.
ORR chief executive Joanna Whittington said: “The entire rail industry, including passengers, freight customers and train operators, relies on Network Rail to deliver a high-quality service.
”ORR’s initial assessment of Network Rail’s five year plans shows that the transition from a centrally run company to one structured round eight geographic routes has improved the quality of the plans but we want to see £1 billion more spent on renewing the railway to improve reliability and boost safety.
”ORR will be monitoring and enforcing delivery by each of the routes, so that passengers and freight customers will be able to rely on the railway for the essential service it provides.”
The ORR is restructuring Network Rail’s licence to make the routes more accountable for their plans. The ORR said it will ‘monitor and hold to account’ each route as well as the new System Operator.
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne responded: “Today’s draft determination is an important step in the process to finalise our plans to deliver a safe, reliable, improving and growing railway in the five years to 2024. We welcome the regulator’s general support for our plans for Britain’s railways, delivering a more reliable service that passengers can rely on. It has accepted the majority of our plans, strongly supporting the changes we have been making including our focus on bringing track and train closer together, supporting devolution, the creation of the System Operator and incorporating customer focused scorecards into its monitoring during CP6.
“We will consider the detail carefully over the coming months as there are still some areas of concern that we will need to work with ORR on before it publishes its final determination in October."