The Office of Rail and Road, the UK’s railway industry regulatory body, has given its approval to the five-year financial plan laid out by Network Rail after two years of analysis. 

The £43.1bn ($52.5bn) plan, which covers ‘Control Period 7’ (CP7) between April 2024 and March 2029, has been revised since the ORR’s draft determination in June, which called for a greater focus on train performance on more spending on the maintenance of core assets.

Will Godfrey, director of Economics, Finance and Markets for the ORR, said: “I’m pleased to see that Network Rail has responded well to our challenges to its initial plans and the result is more robust and customer-focused plans which we believe will deliver better outcomes for passengers and freight. 

“The plans are challenging but achievable. Our five-year funding and regulatory settlement provides stability and a platform for the industry to plan and invest. This is important not just for Network Rail, but also for passenger and freight operators and the supply chain.” 

The ORR’s final determination outlined a range of different commitments it now expected from Network Rail, including upgrades to structures that will better support freight operations, the retaining of provisions for risk funding of £1.5bn in England and Wales and £225m in Scotland and delivering a 20% reduction in carbon emissions. 

The approval was welcomed by Network Rail with chief executive Andrew Haines saying the announcement gave “clarity and certainty” for the railway industry. 

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Haines said: “Throughout CP7 we are committing to delivering extensive investments across the length and breadth of the network. 

“In addition to improvements to safety, we’ll work to boost train performance, usher in new technologies, invest significantly more funds to tackle climate change as well as make £3.6bn of efficiency savings.” 

Though Network Rail aligned its plan with the ORR’s recommendations, earlier this year it went against ORR’s advice to cut roughly 500 roles, including 296 employees, in its Track Renewal Services arm despite the regulator saying it should invest £600m into the team.