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Rail plans top £30bn in five years from ’09

Expansion plans will be supplemented by renewals and maintenance spend

Network Rail will almost treble its investment in expansion schemes as part of £30 billion spent on upgrading the network over five years from 2009.

The network provider’s Strategic Business Plan includes expansion projects totalling £9.6 billion, up from £3.5 billion in the current programme. Much of this will go on the long-awaited Thameslink upgrade, which is costing £2.6 billion.

Other big investments include £134 million for the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station, £153 million for remodelling at King’s Cross in north London and £455 million for Reading station area redevelopment

A special £234 million fund has been set up for small improvement schemes, with an additional £156 million for national station improvements.

Network Rail chief executive Ian Coucher said: “Growth and expansion is where we will focus our efforts in the years ahead. [The] plan highlights a raft of small, medium and large expansion schemes that will provide passengers and freight users with a bigger, better railway that delivers more trains,
more seats, more often.”

A significant portion of the fund has been allocated to projects in Scotland, with £170 million for the Glasgow airport link and £145 million for the Airdrie to Bathgate project.

A number of gauge widening projects are planned to help freight traffic.

Two of the biggest are a £70 million gauge enhancement between Peterborough and Nuneaton and a £33 million ‘big-box’ scheme from Southampton to the west coast. A further £7 million will be spent on cross-London gauge and capacity improvements.

Outside the expansion schemes, Network Rail has promised £11.4 billion of investment on renewing track, signals, structures and stations as well as a £10.4 billion spend on maintenance and daily operating costs

All proposals will now be assessed by the Office of Rail Regulation, which will work with Network Rail until late 2008 when the final spending plans will gain approval.

ORR chief executive Bill Emery said: “We are keen to receive the views of interested parties on the SBP. We would like to hear from stakeholders on whether the industry plan represents a realistic and efficient way of meeting their specific interests and the needs of rail users and funders.”

Analysis: Ambitious goal presents challenge on disruption

By Jim Steer

Network Rail, in publishing its Strategic Business Plan, invites its regulator to agree a massive increase in enhancement expenditure to meet the specification of ‘what ministers want to buy’ in July’s Rail White Paper.

It spells out the implications for the network of the urgent need to increase capacity. Enhancements in the period are expected to total £9.6 billion, easily topping the current spend rate of £3.5 billion.

Network Rail sees operations, maintenance and renewal spend over the five years dropping by 16 per cent, while the Office of Rail Regulation will surely press for greater progress on efficiency.

A key challenge for the construction industry is to find ways to implement this programme without undue disruption to services.

Jim Steer is a former managing director of the Strategic Rail Authority and a director at consultant Steer Davies Gleave