Transport secretary Chris Grayling has deferred a decision on future rail funding as he seeks “more assurances” on cost, while calling on Network Rail to improve its “efficiency”.
Mr Grayling was expected to announce the funds available for Network Rail for Control Period 6 (CP6), which will run from 2019 to 2024.
There has been speculation that the government will set aside a significantly lower amount for CP6 compared with the £38bn for CP5 covering 2014 to 2019.
However, any decision on future funding has been put back until 13 October, it emerged today.
Mr Grayling said: “An increased volume of renewals activity will be needed over the course of Control Period 6, to maintain safety and improve on current levels of reliability and punctuality.
“This enhanced programme of renewals will be supported by appropriate volumes of operations and maintenance activity required to maintain safety and improve the reliability and punctuality of train services.”
However, Mr Grayling added: “Before committing to the specific levels of funding required, I have decided that the government requires more assurance on the likely costs of the work programme.”
He continued: “Network Rail’s progress on improving its efficiency in recent years has fallen short of my expectations.”
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “We welcome the government’s announcement today which recognises the need for our railways to prosper and to continue to be supported and invested in.
“We will work closely with government and the industry over the coming months to develop our plans for further improvements for our railway in the five years to 2024.”
The news comes as the government announced it had scrapped plans for rail electrification across three routes – the Great Western line between Cardiff and Swansea, the London-Sheffield Midland Main Line north of Kettering, and the Oxenholme to Windermere line in the Lake District.