Long term planning process


The industry’s planning process is led by Network Rail to develop strategic proposals for the rail network through analysis and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. This is done to inform decisions on long term plans, made primarily by governments. The process seeks to identify the future demand for the capability and capacity of the network, through a series of assessments in market studies, route-specific studies and studies of network wide issues such as electrification. More information about the process can be found on Network Rail's website.

We have a role in making sure that Network Rail meets its obligations in its network licence in relation to the long term planning process. Network Rail develops each study in conjunction with a range of stakeholders, and then also formally consults the draft study document. It then considers the responses received and publishes a final version of the document. We may object to the establishment of any study. If any stakeholder wishes us to object to a particular study, we expect it to make that fact known to us within 30 days of publication by Network Rail of the relevant final document, having reference to our criteria for objection (see below under the relevant section). We have a further 30 days in which to consider specific stakeholder representations and issue a notice of objection to all or part of the market or route study from the date of notification from Network Rail. In the absence of such notice, the route study becomes established. Please contact us.

The following letter sets out our formal process for managing any issues raised in relation to long term planning documents:

ORR guidelines on the Long Term Planning Process (LTPP)
6 January 2017

Market studies

Four market studies have been developed and established. These were developed by Network Rail with its stakeholders. The market studies took a long term view of the regional, long distance and London and South East passenger markets, and the freight market. The studies established 'conditional outputs' – or ambitions for the service characteristics and frequencies for passenger and freight traffic to be accommodated – for each market. All four market studies have now been formally established and the final documents can be found on Network Rail’s long term planning pages.

Route studies

Network Rail is in the process of developing the route studies to inform the next five year funding period beginning in 2019 (known as Control Period 6). These also look as far ahead as 2043, so that what is proposed in the shorter term is compatible with future requirements. More information can be found on Network Rail’s website including draft and final versions of individual route studies, as well as a timeline for production of the studies.

Route studies seek to identify gaps in the industry’s ability to deliver the ‘conditional outputs’ identified by the market studies in the light of predicted demand, and set out potential options for addressing these gaps. It is a matter for funders to determine which, if any, of these options they wish to buy.

Network wide studies

Network Rail is also developing several network wide studies which address issues that cannot adequately be addressed through the route studies, such as electrification and freight issues.

Route Utilisation Strategies

The Long Term Planning Process was established in 2012 as an evolution of the previous Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) process. Read more information on the historic RUSs and on Network Rail’s website.