On 13 February 2018, Network Rail published its strategic business plans (SBPs) for control period 6 (CP6, which we expect to run from 2019 to 2024). The SBPs include separate strategic plans produced by each of Network Rail’s devolved routes, its System Operator (the SO) and central functions. These plans set out what Network Rail proposed to deliver in CP6 and how much this would cost.
The SBPs are the key input into the 2018 periodic review (PR18) and inform our decisions on what Network Rail should deliver and how its available funding should be used in CP6. In June 2018, we consulted on our draft determination, which setting out our draft decisions. We will issue our final determination in October 2018.
To inform our review of the SBPs, we invited views on the strategic plans, giving a short period of time for stakeholders to provide any high-level and material issues that they considered to be relevant and material to the decisions we would need to make in our draft determination.
We are grateful for the comments that we received, which helped to inform our SBP review. The responses are available here. A summary of some of the main themes arising from the comments is available below.
Main themes arising from the responses
Train performance: A number of train operators raised concerns regarding the level of forecast train performance during CP6 proposed in the SBPs. In some cases this included declines in performance, despite the level of funding committed by the governments.
There were also concerns that Network Rail had not committed to the performance targets specified in train operators’ franchise agreements. And, more broadly, some operators considered that the performance trajectories in the SBPs would not incentivise Network Rail to deliver improved performance.
Some responses flagged that train operators had not been involved in the planning process for train performance targets in CP6.
Maintenance & renewals (M&R): Some stakeholders welcomed the approach Network Rail had adopted in prioritising M&R workbanks and planning these at a local, bottom-up level. However, there were also concerns that some routes were taking too much of a reactive approach to asset management, which would not adequately address the deteriorating condition of some assets. Some safety concerns arising from this were also flagged.
Efficiency and funding: A concern was expressed over peaks and troughs in workbanks which could impact the supply chain’s ability to plan and deliver work. A point was also raised over how the supply chain could resource and deliver a large volume of renewal work in a condensed period.
Some respondents welcomed the prospect of third party funding for enhancement schemes and said that Network Rail should encourage this.
Stakeholder engagement: Some operators said that SBP engagement was more of a presentation of the plans rather than an opportunity for stakeholders to be involved in the development of the plans. Indeed, a number of responses considered that, overall, engagement with the routes on the SBPs had been insufficient. (More information regarding Network Rail’s stakeholder engagement and our assessment is available in our draft determination supplementary document on stakeholder engagement)
System Operator: There was broad support for the SO’s plan and how it intends to deliver its outputs. There were proposals for more passenger and freight operators and devolved rail bodies to be represented on the SO route supervisory board.
Some operators looked forward to seeing the SO respond to challenges around timetable planning and retention of staff, and sought greater industry collaboration in the development of the timetable. Greater clarity was sought on the SO’s role as the client for enhancement projects and how the SO and routes would work effectively together.