Network Rail, the UK’s rail infrastructure manager, has celebrated billions of pounds of investment over the last five years as it marks the end of Control Period 6, the most recent funding period for the organisation. 

The public body noted ‘fundamental’ changes and challenges during the period, including its devolution into five regional businesses and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also highlighting savings worth £4bn ($5bn), £500m more than the targets set by the UK’s rail regulator. 

CEO Andrew Haines said: “The last five years has seen unprecedented change, not just at Network Rail, but across the world. Our railway kept essential workers and freight moving during the Covid pandemic, and of course we’re now faced with a different challenge – building passenger numbers back.” 

Network Rail said it had spent £18.7bn during the period on renewals and £11.6bn on enhancements for the railway network, while the UK Department for Transport had funded £8.6bn of enhancements and Transport Scotland funded another £800m. 

Haines also marked changes to the organisation’s ways of working such as a 99% reduction in time spent having workers act as lookouts on a live railway, and described climate change as the biggest challenges faced by the network. 

Despite this success, the organisation has been criticised for some of the actions it has taken to produce the savings it has touted, including the cutting of around 500 roles from its Track Renewal Services arm in October 2023, despite the UK regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), saying it should invest £600m into the team. 

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During CP6, the body has overseen a number of notable projects including: The beginning of the £1.4bn East Coast Digital Programme to install digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line, the £1.5bn electrification of lines between London and Derby, and the £700m resignalling project in the West Midlands. 

Looking ahead to CP7, which begins on 1 April 2024, Haines said that he was expecting climate change to remain one of the main issues for the body, along with continuing attempts to improve train performance. 

The organisation’s plan for the CP7 period, which details costs of £43bn, has been approved by the ORR but could face complications as Network Rail’s responsibilities are set to be transitioned into a new integrated body known as Great British Railways (GBR). 

However, while the UK Government included its draft Rail Reform Bill to establish GBR in the 2023 King’s speech, it has yet to bring the bill to parliament and is not expecting to do so before the next general election, bringing criticism from various UK rail bodies.