Network Rail spent a record £4.1bn on railway improvements in the past financial year, despite profits plummeting from £483m to just £48m.
The organisation’s annual report showed investments in improving the frequency and reliability of trains, and creating “better travelling experiences” on board. By 2019, it aims to provide an extra 170,000 seats into major cities per day, with an extra 6,400 train services. It spends £128m every week on improvements for passengers.
A plan for the next five years focuses efforts on the railway’s safety, reliability, efficiency, growth and employees. The plan aims to reduce the number of late trains, which has been rising for the past few years. It is hoped to achieve a 15% reduction in the number of delayed trains.
The profit before tax this year was a mere £48m compared to the £483m made last year, a 90% drop. Chief financial officer Jeremy Westlake said this was down to the costs of ageing infrastructure and income not increasing at the same rate as borrowing costs.
Debt increased from £46.3bn in 2016-17 to £51.2bn in the past year. Network Rail said the increase was expected and was caused by borrowing £6.7bn from the Department for Transport, which was used to pay back existing bonds and to invest in the railway.
The key projects for the year included Crossrail, Thameslink, the Great North Rail Project, the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme, Great Western Electrification Programme, and the Waterloo and South West upgrade, which are all nearing completion.
“We are now a much more customer-focused organisation,” said Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chair of Network Rail. “We have become more cost-competitive, making over £85m of savings through our continuous improvement initiatives in the past year alone.”
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