Upgrading the UK’s railway infrastructure

The role of Network Rail in upgrading the UK’s railway infrastructure in England, Wales and Scotland is detailed here by Open Access Government

Network Rail operate and own the UK’s railway infrastructure in England, Wales and Scotland. In total, that’s an astonishing 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and thousands of signals, tunnels, level crossings and points. They also manage rail timetabling and 19 of the largest stations in England, Scotland and Wales. Network Rail work tirelessly to ensure a safe and reliable experience for the users of the railway.

When it comes to improving the UK’s railway infrastructure, Network Rail is spending £130 million every single week on improvements for passengers through the Railway Upgrade Plan (https://www.networkrail.co.uk/our-railway-upgrade-plan/) , including maintaining and renewing Britain’s 20,000 miles of track. Due to this, there will be an additional 170,000 passenger seats into major UK cities throughout the country daily by 2019, a clear sign that the country’s railways are on the up. This encouraging development will ensure the provision of 6,400 extra train services and 5,500 new carriages, both of which are said to represent a 30% increase in capacity.

According to Network Rail, journeys will be quicker, trains will run more frequently, and things will be more comfortable for passengers. This ambitious plan to upgrade the UK’s railway infrastructure is said to be the biggest programme of rail modernisation since the Victorian era. It’s therefore not surprising that the next five-year funding period, 2019-2024, Control Period 6 (CP6), represents a significant infrastructure investment programme by Network Rail.

In March this year, Network Rail issued a Prior Information Notice (PIN) via The Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) process for a tender exercise concerning the next generation of track works contracts, valued at up to £5 billion over a period of 10 years, commencing, of course, in 2019. These contracts are expected to cover the design, development and delivery of plain line and switches & crossings, plus associated infrastructure works.

Owing to the long-term and large-scale character of the contracts, it will be crucial for potential bidders to demonstrate their commitment to delivering value through the relentless pursuit of highly innovative approaches and excellence in their work, not to mention a demonstrable track record of success in collaborative environments.

Commenting on these recent developments, Network Rail’s director for track, Steve Featherstone, says: “This tender represents a major milestone in the development of our strategy for our track infrastructure investment programme. It also represents a significant commitment by Network Rail to the rail industry and we are expecting high levels of interest in these contracts from the supply chain. In return, we will be looking for clear and firm commitments from the supply chain to deliver value for Network Rail.” (1)

As part of Network Rail’s strong commitment to improving rail infrastructure in the UK, we find out in early April about the 400 railway projects completed successfully during the Easter 2018 weekend, thanks to a 15,000-strong workforce. One of the projects concerns Manchester Victoria being closed so that the old track is replaced, and to lower the track under Cheetham Hill Road bridge, as part of Manchester to Stalybridge line speed improvement upgrade.

Another, involves the continuing works on the Preston to Blackpool North line, an upgrade that involves rebuilding 11 bridges, remodelling 11 station platforms, replacing 11km of track, plus installing 84 new signals and upgrading drainage. Also, the South East route had improvements to the Sevenoaks tunnel in Kent made, bringing new signalling equipment into use through Mitcham and Sutton, as well as laying down the new track between New Cross and Norwood Junction. (2)

Bringing these exciting infrastructure developments up-to-date, we know that a 32,100-strong workforce will be working hard over the two 2018 May bank holiday weekends, to help deliver a more reliable rail infrastructure, not to mention improved services and facilities for passengers. As such, Network Rail is reminding passengers to bear this in mind, as 822 projects are delivered as part of the ambitious Railway Upgrade Plan.

Mark Carne, chief executive at Network Rail comments on these planned improvements: “This huge investment programme will provide faster, better services and help relieve over-crowding to respond to the huge growth on Britain’s railways. While most of the network is open for business as usual, some routes are heavily affected and so we strongly advise passengers to plan ahead this May.” (3)

The future for rail infrastructure is, therefore, an optimistic one, as these recent efforts of Network Rail illustrate, in that they most certainly: “Work round-the-clock to provide a safe, reliable experience for the millions using Europe’s fastest-growing railway each… day.” Added to this, they are: “Delivering the biggest and most ambitious upgrade our network’s seen in over 150 years.” (4)


1 https://www.networkrail.co.uk/feeds/new-alliances-to-be-formed-as-5bn-railway-track-work-tender-issued/

2 https://www.networkrail.co.uk/easter-railway-improvement-workscomplete/

3 https://www.networkrail.co.uk/feeds/passengers-urged-to-checkbefore-they-travel-this-may/

4 https://www.networkrail.co.uk/who-we-are/


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