Welsh Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence from Network Rail

Summary

Network Rail owns and operates the rail infrastructure across Great Britain.

Investing in rail is one of the most effective ways to help grow Britain’s economy.

The newly launched Wales Route is responsible for the rail infrastructure in Wales and the borders area.

Network Rail is delivering a number of projects to improve cross border rail services.

Network Rail regularly engages with the Welsh Government and is also an attendee of the Cross Border Rail Forum.

Introduction

1. Network Rail runs, maintains and develops Britain’s rail tracks, signalling, and other rail infrastructure including bridges, tunnels, level crossings and viaducts.

2. Network Rail sees its purpose as to generate outstanding value for taxpayers and rail users by continually improving the railway; and our role as to develop, maintain and operate the rail infrastructure in partnership with our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

3. When Network Rail was formed in 2002 the railway was facing a number of challenges. There were major safety concerns and punctuality levels were falling well short of what passengers expect, with a Public Performance Measure (PPM) of below 80%. Today the railway is safer whilst performance is at record levels with PPM above 91%.

4. This success is mirrored by demand. Today more people travel by rail than at any point since the 1920s—when the rail network was around twice its current size.

5. Every year 1.3 billion journeys are made on Britain’s railway and 100 million tonnes of freight is transported by rail between ports, factories and shops.

6. Demand is still increasing. Over the next 30 years passenger demand for rail across Britain will double and freight demand is expected to go up by 140%. In Wales demand is set to rise by an estimated 31% in the decade from 2009 to 2019.

7. Network Rail’s vision is to improve the rail network by providing faster, more frequent and more reliable journeys between Britain’s towns and cities.

8. Rail investment helps to stimulate private sector growth by linking towns and cities and is one of the most effective ways to help grow Britain’s economy.

9. In more rural areas the railway performs a vital lifeline helping reduce isolation and strengthen communities by bringing vital health and education services closer and expanding other opportunities such as trips to leisure centres and shops.

Network Rail in Wales

10. The railway infrastructure in Wales and the borders area is managed by Network Rail’s Wales route.

11. The Wales route was launched in November 2011 and its creation was aligned with Network Rail’s drive to increase its responsiveness and accountability by devolving to a more local level.

12. The new Wales business unit oversees the management and operation of the railway in south Wales, mid Wales, north Wales and the Marches—broadly reflecting the Wales and Borders franchise area—from headquarters in Cardiff.

13. Devolution and the creation of the new Wales route places the company closer to our customers and other stakeholders in Wales. As well as being more responsive to local needs and demands, devolution will also allow us to deliver a railway that is more cost efficient and better value for money for the taxpayer.

14. The Wales route is led by the route managing director who has responsibility for safety, operations, maintenance and asset management. This is a major step forward and offers opportunities to deliver tailored improvements and drive efficiencies on the route as previously these functions were managed from a number of different locations including Swindon, Birmingham and Manchester.

Improving Cross Border Rail Links

15. Network Rail is working with a number of different stakeholders to improve cross border links between Wales and England.

16. A number of projects have been delivered to date leading to improved passenger services by increasing capacity, improving connectivity, reducing journey times and improving reliability. For example:

West Coast Main Line Upgrade—completed in December 2008 the project delivered reduced journey times between North Wales and London as well as providing additional direct services.

Newport Area Signalling Renewal—the re-signalling project delivered performance benefits as well as improving the track layout in the Severn Tunnel Junction area.

Newport Station Re-development—the refurbished station opened in time for the 2010 Ryder Cup. The new station is almost twice the size of the original station and will cater for the expected growth in passenger numbers.

Passengers at the station now have improved accessibility, with step free access from both terminals onto all platforms. The station also benefits from increased and improved parking facilities.

Cambrian Line—a new signalling system, the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), as well as a Welsh Government funded enhancement project provides the opportunity to offer additional passenger services on the Cambrian Line.

17. Network Rail is also in the planning and delivery stage for a number of other projects that will deliver significant benefits for passengers:

Electrification of the Great Western Main Line—the project to electrify the Great Western Main Line from Cardiff to London Paddington was confirmed by the Secretary of State for Transport on 1 March 2011.

The electrification project along with a re-modelling of the timetable will help to deliver journey time improvements to London from both Cardiff and Swansea. The new rolling stock will also offer more seats per carriage compared to the existing rolling stock.

Reading Station Area Redevelopment—the major redevelopment of the railway in the Reading area will deliver extra capacity and improved performance benefiting all South Wales to London services.

Swindon to Kemble—a Department for Transport funded scheme to re-double the Severn Tunnel diversionary route between Swindon and Kemble. The project will result in greater operational flexibility for South Wales services at times when the Severn Tunnel is closed.

North—South Wales Journey Improvements—a Welsh Government funded project to improve journey times and frequency on the key North—South Wales route. The project will help meet growing North-South Wales passenger demand whilst also improving connectivity with Chester and Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton Linespeed Improvements—to be completed by 2015 and benefits all services between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury to and from Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

Hereford Station Signalling Improvements—this project improves signalling capacity and capability in and around the Hereford Area and will benefit all Arriva Trains Wales services between Newport and Shrewsbury and London Midland services from Hereford to Worcester and Birmingham.

Control Period 5 Preparation

18. Funding for the Operation, Maintenance, Renewals and Enhancement of the railway is made over periods of five years termed Control Periods.

19. The present Control Period (CP4) finishes on 31 March 2014. Ahead of the next Control Period, Network Rail, alongside the Association of Train Operating Companies, the Rail Freight Operators’ Association and the Railway Industries Association, published the Initial Industry Plan (IIP) in September 2011.

20. The publication of the IIP marked the first major step in the process that will inform decisions to be made by governments (DfT for England and Wales; Transport Scotland for Scotland) and the Office of Rail Regulation affecting the railways in Control Period 5.

21. This document defines the projects that Network Rail suggests that governments consider for funding through the High Level Output Specification (HLOS) which will be published during the summer of 2012.

22. Network Rail, train operators and industry suppliers believe continued investment in rail would deliver major benefits for the country and they set out options for investment which if adopted in full would:

Stimulate economic growth by better linking Britain’s’ cities.

Maintain high levels of reliability and safety, focussing on areas in particular need of improvement.

Better meet passengers’ needs in key areas such as journey information, comfort and accessibility to drive continued improvement in customer satisfaction.

Reduce the industry’s carbon emissions per passenger kilometre.

23. In July 2012 the UK Government will publish the High Level Output Statement (HLOS) for CP5. This will confirm the outputs for England and Wales that the UK Government wishes to buy from the railway which is linked by the Government to a Statement of Funds Available (SoFA). The SoFA confirms how much funding will be available to deliver the outputs defined within the HLOS.

24. Following the HLOS Network Rail will develop the Strategic Business Plan (SBP) setting out how the outputs required within the HLOS can be delivered for the funding available within the SoFA.

25. During 2013 the SBP is finalised and confirmed with Government and the ORR in advance of the commencement of CP5 in April 2014

26. The Welsh Government is part of the ongoing discussions with the UK Government around the HLOS settlement and is consulted by UK Government and the ORR during the development and finalisation of the SBP.

Stakeholder Relations

27. Network Rail has a formal meeting schedule in situ with the Welsh Government. We regularly meet with both the minister responsible for transport (Minister for Local Government and Communities) and senior officials in the Integrated Transport department.

28. There are also numerous regular client meetings to discuss individual projects with Welsh Government officials. Additionally we have engaged closely with the Welsh Government over their aspirations for Valley Lines electrification and electrification of the main line from Cardiff to Swansea.

29. Network Rail attends and reports to the bi-annual Cross Border Rail Forum, which brings together the English border local authorities, Department for Transport, Welsh Government and Arriva Trains Wales.

30. Additionally Network Rail regularly meets with representatives of local authorities on both sides of the border as well as the Welsh transport consortia to discuss specific rail projects as well as wider issues and aspirations around rail services.

Wales Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS)

31. The Wales RUS, published in November 2008, sets out the strategic vision for the future of the rail network in Wales, and was developed following a now well-established process, including extensive stakeholder involvement.

32. The Wales RUS closely aligns the Welsh Government’s National Transport Plan and the Wales Spatial Plan.

33. The cross border elements of the Wales RUS are further supplemented by the Great Western, Northern and Merseyside RUSs which provide a strategic viewpoint of the interfaces and cross border issues that effect, South, Mid and North Wales.

April 2012

Prepared 5th March 2013