Empty track in Berkshire

ORR: Delivery plans on track, but risk funding concerns raised

Carrying out it’s annual review of Network Rail’s progress towards its delivery plan, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has found that the rail infrastructure operator is largely on track, but raised concerns over remaining levels of risk funding, particularly in Scotland.

The regulator’s review benchmarks Network Rail’s progress against the five-year plan for Control Period 6 (CP6), which runs from 2019-2024.

As part of the review, ORR flagged that the remaining risk funding had reduced considerably from £2.7bn, as had been shown in its 2019 Business Plan, down to £0.8bn.

Much of this reduction has been put down to the impacts of Covid-19.

In particular, in Scotland, Network Rail had just £57m available in risk funding to cover £106m of identified risks, with considerations being made around changing its plans to fund the potential gap.

Overall, Network Rail remained on track to deliver on the CP6 plans, the regulator found, though some work such as signalling and telecommunications projects had been put back towards the end of CP6.

In response, ORR emphasised the need for the organisation to manage its deliverability risks effectively.

Across the five-year CP6 period, Network Rail is targeted to deliver £3.5bn of efficiency improvements, with good progress being made towards the majority of this. In Scotland, where the additional challenges were identified, it was taking on board ORR’s feedback to improve.

John Larkinson, ORR’s Chief Executive, said: "Network Rail has continued to deliver well in extremely challenging and changing circumstances. Work to renew the railway is broadly on track and Network Rail has listened to us and delivered its early efficiency commitments.

"The risk funding arrangements have worked well in challenging circumstances, but we are concerned that there has been a significant decrease in the remaining risk funding, which is particularly acute in Scotland. Network Rail must now set out how it will manage this position more clearly, particularly given future uncertainty.

"We will continue to monitor and engage with Network Rail as it tackles these issues to help ensure the continued safe and reliable running of Britain’s railway."

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