Network Rail’s enhancements


We monitor Network Rail’s planning and delivery of enhancements (large scale projects delivering new infrastructure capabilities), to:

  • assess the risk to successful delivery of timetable changes and the resultant impact on passengers;
  • understand the effect of enhancements on the rest of Network Rail’s business (including operations, maintenance and renewals);
  • publicly report on Network Rail’s progress delivering enhancements and highlighting reasons for changes to its plan; and
  • provide an understanding of Network Rail’s broader capability across its business to the funders of enhancements.

We provide advice to Transport Scotland on the cost of projects and hold Network Rail to account to deliver key milestones, for Scotland enhancements. However, we have agreed with Department for Transport that we will not monitor the cost efficiency of the projects it funds or take action in relation to specific milestones for these projects.

We protect the interests of Network Rail’s customers and stakeholders by making sure they have the opportunity to comment on the impact of changes to Network Rail’s plans.

We also provide guidance on the Investment Framework to inform third parties considering investment in the railway, we approve template contracts and we provide advice where required. 

Our Roles and responsibilities for enhancements in CP7 document provides more details about ORR’s role in the current 5-year control period, in relation to that of DfT, Transport Scotland and Network Rail. 


What are the enhancement projects Network Rail is committed to deliver?

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Network Rail's licence requires them to publish a delivery plan that sets out its obligations for enhancement projects. This allows train operators to plan their businesses and funders to plan their finances with a reasonable degree of assurance.

Network Rail publishes a list of enhancements projects in its Enhancements Delivery Plan. If Network Rail needs to make changes to the Enhancements Delivery Plans, for example if a delivery milestone has to be delayed, Network Rail must agree it with their funders through a Change Control process. ORR reviews these Change Controls to make sure that all the affected stakeholders (such as train companies and local councils) have been consulted and that Network Rail are taking any concerns into account.

How is Network Rail performing on delivering enhancement projects and improving its capability?

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We report on Network Rail’s performance on delivering enhancement projects every 6 months in our Network Rail Monitor.

In addition, we sometimes use the Independent Reporter to complete a detailed review of specific projects or delivery concerns. Previous reviews have included Network Rail’s delivery of the Stirling-Dunblane-Alloa project and Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme’s Target Cost. Details are available on our Independent reporters webpage.

We found Network Rail in breach of its licence in October 2015 regarding its planning and delivery of its enhancements programme.  Since 2015, Network Rail has been working on many improvements to its capability to manage enhancements, including the Enhancements Improvement Programme (EIP).

We commissioned the Independent Reporter to complete reviews of some areas where Network Rail was looking to improve its capability in CP5, including the Enhancements Improvement Programme and its management of complex programmes. Details are available on our Independent reporters webpage.

In 2018 we began piloting a new method to assess Network Rail’s capability on enhancements. We will report on Network Rail’s progress with improving its capability in our Network Rail Monitor.

In late 2022, at a time when the industry was facing challenges around inflation and industrial relations, we looked into concerns raised by project staff about workload and inefficiency within Network Rail projects. Overall, we found that all the Network Rail regions were aware of the local issues and they were making changes which should reasonably address these issues. However these changes would not be complete until the start of CP7, so in October 2023 we wrote a letter to Network Rail, summarising what we had found and noting that we would carry out a follow-up review at the start of CP7.  

How is the efficiency of Network Rail’s enhancements costs reviewed in Scotland?

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In order to assist the Scottish Government in taking an informed decision on whether Network Rail’s proposed costs represent good value, ORR has been tasked by Transport Scotland with assessing the efficiency of Network Rail’s enhancement’s estimates.

As part of the new pipeline approach to committing to and funding enhancements, Network Rail will need to submit its developing business cases and estimates to a series of Scottish Government investment panels for approval. ORR will carry out an efficiency review of each estimate at an appropriate stage of development and ahead of an agreed panel date. The estimate review will assess whether the costs are justified, in-line with benchmarks and industry norms, have been developed using sound principles and whether they contain inefficiencies or unsupported cost. A report will be submitted to both Network Rail and Transport Scotland outlining our views on the efficiency of the proposals and any areas of concern within the estimate that require further focus.

ORR will not be setting a target cost or incentivising Network Rail to deliver the project efficiently.

ORR Change Control quarterly decision letters (CP5)

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