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ORR calls on Network Rail to spend £1bn on safety and quality initiatives

The rail regulator has called on Network Rail to invest an extra £1bn on replacing “worn out” rolling stock, including £80m in spending on safety expenditure and worker safety initiatives.

The ORR said railway performance has “failed many passengers” in recent months, arguing that strong planning is central to improving performance. The regulator claims it has identified greater scope for Network Rail to boost reliability and safety, emphasising the demand for greater funding.

Amongst the recommendations from the regulator are to reallocate £0.9bn of the current £1.7bn England and Wales funding, currently held centrally to manage financial risks, to Network Rail’s routes so they can develop cash spending plans, and the creation of a £10m performance innovation fund to support testing and implementing new ideas across the country.

Network Rail has also been directed by the ORR to review its performance measures for the Wessex, South East, and Anglia routes, to ensure the providers work effectively with the publicly-financed infrastructure network and that they engage in the process to finalise passenger performance targets.

Above all, the ORR said that the investment of £1bn of work to enhance safety and service standard provisions would be funded through changes including “greater efficiency and other savings.” The cash increase will bring the total renewals budget to £18bn across Britain.

Chief executive of ORR 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 around eight geographic routes has improved the quality of the plans, but we want to see £1bn more spent on renewing the railway to improve reliability and boost safety.”

Whittington added that the ORR will be monitoring and enforcing the delivery of standards from services so passengers and freight customers can rely on the railway for the essential service it provides.

Other recommendations include a variable access charge increase for freight and charter operators to be capped, and charges for freight services carrying biomass for the electricity supply industry in an effort for Network Rail to recover costs for the £1bn greater investment.

Responding to the ORR’s draft determination, Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: “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.”


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