The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has published its final determination for the periodic review 2023 (PR23) of Network Rail. PR23 sets out what Network Rail is expected to deliver during control period 7 (CP7), which runs from 1 April 2024 to 31 March 2029, and how the available funding should be best used to support this.
ORR's goals for CP7 are safety, performance, asset sustainability, and efficiency. Network Rail is expected to improve the reliability and punctuality of train services, invest in the renewal and maintenance of its assets, and operate the railway in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
The PR23 outcomes mean that passengers and freight users can expect to see improvements in the reliability and punctuality of train services over the next five years. Network Rail is also expected to invest in the renewal and maintenance of its assets, which will help to ensure that the railway remains safe and reliable in the long term.
Network Rail will now develop a delivery plan that sets out how it will meet the requirements of PR23. ORR will monitor Network Rail's performance against this plan and take action if necessary.
7 things you need to know about PR23
1 - PR23 is the first periodic review to be conducted under the new regulatory framework for the railway industry. The new framework was introduced in 2021 and gives ORR greater powers to hold Network Rail to account.
2 - PR23 takes into account the findings of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. The Williams-Shapps Plan was published in May 2021 and sets out a vision for a more efficient and customer-focused railway. The plan includes a number of proposals that are expected to be implemented during CP7, such as the introduction of new competition on the railway and the creation of a new integrated rail plan.
3 - PR23 is the most ambitious periodic review to date. It sets out a number of challenging targets for Network Rail to meet, including:
- Improving the reliability and punctuality of train services by 25%
- Reducing the number of delays caused by Network Rail by 50%
- Investing £12 billion in the renewal and maintenance of its assets
- Operating the railway more efficiently and cost-effectively, saving £2 billion over the next five years
4 - Network Rail will receive £43.1 billion to spend on Britain's railway network. This is an increase of £2.8 billion compared to the previous control period.
5 - ORR will monitor Network Rail's performance closely and will take action if necessary. ORR has a range of powers at its disposal, including the ability to impose fines and to require Network Rail to make changes to its plans.
6 - PR23 is the first periodic review to be conducted under the new regulatory framework for the railway industry.The new framework was introduced in 2021 and gives ORR greater powers to hold Network Rail to account. This means that Network Rail will be under more pressure to deliver on its promises and to improve the railway for passengers and freight users.
7 - PR23 could lead to increased competition on the railway. The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, which is being implemented during CP7, includes a number of proposals that are designed to increase competition on the railway. For example, the plan proposes to open up more train services to competition and to create a new integrated rail plan that will give passengers more choice and flexibility. Increased competition on the railway could lead to lower fares and better services for passengers.
PR23 is a significant milestone for the railway industry. It provides Network Rail with the certainty it needs to invest in the railway and deliver a better service for passengers and freight users. The successful delivery of PR23 would be a major achievement for the railway industry and would benefit people across the country.
The impact of PR23 on the railway industry
PR23 is expected to have a significant impact on the railway industry. Network Rail is expected to invest heavily in the renewal and maintenance of its assets, which will create jobs and boost the economy. The improved reliability and punctuality of train services will also benefit businesses and individuals, making it easier for people to get to work, school, and leisure activities.
The challenges ahead
There are a number of challenges that Network Rail will need to overcome in order to meet the ambitious targets set out in PR23. These include:
- The need to invest in new technology and infrastructure
- The need to improve the efficiency of its operations
- The need to work more closely with train operators and other stakeholders
Network Rail has a proven track record of delivering improvements to the railway. However, the challenges ahead are significant. It will be important for Network Rail to work closely with ORR, train operators, and other stakeholders to ensure that it delivers on the promises made in PR23.