UKRAIL infrastructure owner Network Rail published its 2003 Business Plan on March 31. It projects an average annual spend of £6·25bn on Operations, Maintenance & Renewals over the next three years - significantly higher than the amount projected by the Rail Regulator in his review which took effect on April 1 2002, and more than the total revenue for all UK train operators.

Chairman Ian McAllister blamed the steeply rising costs on several factors. These included rising traffic since 1995-96, a ’bow wave’ in renewals, as track laid in the 1960s and 1970s comes up to its nominal 40-year life, and flaws in the method of privatisation. Describing ’the realities we have to address’, Network Rail said the rate of renewal had to be stepped up ’to reduce or stop the decline’.

Under the Business Plan, Network Rail is committed to reducing the costs of operations and maintenance by 20% over the three years to March 2006. This would save around £500m a year.

Committed enhancements rise from £860m in the current year to a peak of £1·2bn in 2004-05 before dropping back to £534m. They include the £10bn West Coast Route Modernisation, and £1bn for upgrading the Southern Region 750V DC third rail traction supply to handle modern EMUs (RG 3.03 p116).

Network Rail signed the last of four ’framework agreements’ for the power upgrade on March 28. Seeboard Contracting Services and Balfour Beatty Rail Projects will work on Inner London, and ABB Ltd with Mowlem in Kent. Sussex Integrated Utility Services Ltd and Peterhouse take the Sussex routes, and Wessex has been awarded to Siemens and AMEC Spie Rail Systems.