The rail industry has agreed a new process to plan for future demand for rail services, decide how capacity can best be used and assess value for money options for investment.
Today, more people travel by rail than ever before and demand for passenger and freight services is expected to rise significantly in the future. Replacing the previous Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) programme, the Long Term Planning Process (LTPP) has been developed to allow Network Rail and the industry to respond flexibly to the challenges posed by this growth whilst planning the long-term capability of the rail network up to 30 years ahead.
This is in line with wider changes within the industry, such as longer and less prescriptive franchises, Network Rail’s reorganisation into ten devolved routes and new alliances between train operating companies and Network Rail at route level.
Paul Plummer, Network Rail group strategy director, said: “The railway is booming with more and more people choosing rail. As we plan for the future, it is vital that our approach recognises the valuable role rail plays in driving and supporting economic growth. This new approach does that and allows us to plan for Britain’s future.
“By working together as an industry, and by consulting widely among key stakeholders, we can be sure that we understand what the railway of the future should look like and the best value for money options to deliver for growing numbers of passengers and businesses.”
The previous RUS process identified capacity gaps on existing services and proposed interventions to meet them. Aspirations for train services that support economic growth, for example connecting residential areas to labour markets, might require entirely new services and a new approach to addressing capacity.
The LTPP comprises a series of studies that will support the industry, its funders and stakeholders to understand the capability of the network as a whole and what future interventions may be needed:
Market studies: will forecast demand over a 10 and 30 year period for freight and for three passenger markets – long distance, regional urban and London and south east. A series of priorities or ‘conditional outputs’ will be set – such as a minimum service frequency between cities – which will take into account stakeholder aspirations.
Route studies: will develop options for all future train services, local as well as long distance, based on the demand forecasts and priorities set by the market studies. The options will reflect the trade-offs between different stakeholder priorities, such as accommodating freight and passenger growth or the impact of more services on performance.
Cross-boundary analyses: will consider options for services crossing multiple routes and provide consistent assumptions for the route studies.
Network-wide issues, such as technological change, will be addressed through a series of network studies.
These completed studies are expected to provide the main source of proposals put to funders to secure the long term capability of the rail network. They will also inform franchise specifications and bids.
Each study or analysis will be undertaken by a working group – including funders and train and freight operators – which will consult wider stakeholders such as local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships as part of their work. The first market study is expected to complete by the end of 2013 with the working groups active from spring 2012.
All studies will be published on Network Rail’s website in draft form and subject to consultation for 90 days. The final study will then be established within 60 days of publication, subject to approval from the Office of Rail Regulation.