Page 1: Introduction
Britain relies on rail. The railway is a vital part of Britain’s economy and infrastructure. More people travel by rail now than since the 1920s, even though there are 50% fewer rail routes now than in the 1960s.
Every day Network Rail gets three million people to their destinations. It also moves thousands of tonnes of goods around Britain. Rail is a 'greener' and safer mode of transport than car so it is no surprise that passenger numbers have increased by more than 40% in the past ten years. These numbers are expected to double by 2034.
Network Rail is the business responsible for the tracks, bridges and tunnels that make up the British rail network. These, along with signalling and level crossings, form the railway’s infrastructure. Its responsibility extends to 20,000 miles of track and 40,000 bridges and tunnels. It also runs 18 of Britain’s major rail stations, from Edinburgh Waverley to London King’s Cross.
Network Rail’s job is to keep all of these services running both efficiently and above all safely. Its mission is ‘to provide a safe, reliable and efficient railway fit for the 21st century.’
Network Rail faced huge challenges when it took on these responsibilities ten years ago. At the time, the rail network faced a number of problems. Trains were late, costs were high and there had been a lack of investment in both people and equipment. These issues meant that there was low public confidence in the rail network.
Since then, Network Rail has focused on a sustained programme to bring down costs. New ways of working have reduced costs by 28%, largely due to economies of scale. Track and equipment has been renewed and punctuality has risen to over 90%. Major projects have been delivered on time and to budget, leading to more public confidence in the service.
Network Rail has changed its focus to ‘predict and prevent’ rather than the previous ‘find and fix’. This is both more cost-effective and efficient and helps to avoid delay or disruption to journeys for passengers. Between 2009 and 2014, Network Rail will have invested around £12 billion in the rail network. Britain now has the fastest growing network in Europe. This case study examines the role of people in improving the rail network and the British economy.