Network Rail has released its next five-year plan for 2019-2024, saying it will focus on improvements to the UK’s railway infrastructure rather than new projects.

According to Network Rail’s Strategic Business Plan for Control Period Six (CP6), an extra 25 per cent has been earmarked for “day-to-day improvements”, saying an increase in the numbers of services is expected to place extra wear and tear on infrastructure.

In total, Network Rail plans to spend up to £47 billion over the five-year period, with £10.1 billion set aside for new projects – a 33 per cent decrease on new project spending in the current five-year period.

The operator said it aims to make the network more reliable, targeting a 15 per cent reduction in the number of delayed trains. A new digital signalling system will begin to replace the current one, which Network Rail claims can allow more services to run more safely and at a lower cost.

The new plan also includes measures to provide “much needed” capacity increases throughout the network, as passenger numbers are expected to rise by 40 per cent by 2040. Network Rail says projects will be developed on a case-by-case basis, with any extra funding to be subject to finding new sources “that do not rely on the taxpayer”.

A 10 per cent reduction in the risk of train accidents will be supported by better inspection techniques and asset management, as well as improvements in workforce safety.

Network Rail’s strategy also includes environmental and equality targets, with a goal to reduce energy consumption by 18 per cent, carbon emissions by 25 per cent and mental health absence by 30 per cent. The company also wants to increase the number of female employees by 50 per cent.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “By 2021 there will be almost 350,000 more services per year than today – an average of an extra 1,000 services a day, better connecting communities and driving economic growth across the country.”

In addition to the extra funds to be set aside for improvement works, the government has committed to a further £10 billion railway enhancement fund.

Commenting on the five-year plan, Carne continued: “It is an ambitious, but realistic plan that is not without challenge, but with great people working together in great teams, it can deliver the better railway that a better Britain needs.”

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