Much anticipation surrounds Network Rail’s draft Strategic Business Plans for Control Period 7 (CP7), marking the industry plans for the five-year period commencing on 1st April 2024. 

This article aims to guide industry professionals, by summarising the community and stakeholder related aspects of Network Rail's strategic plans for CP7. 

Role of Community Rail in CP7

Where community rail involvement is concerned, Network Rail has been proactive in incorporating the Community Rail Network's expertise into its strategic planning process for CP7. The advice received pertained to utilising community rail to help the rail industry in meeting local needs and collaborate with local partners, creating value in our societies, enhancing station environments, fostering multi-modal travel, and augmenting biodiversity.

Evidently, the concept of 'Social Value' is gaining momentum within Network Rail’s investment criteria and everyday operations—it emphasises the delivery of a net positive benefit to society, which goes beyond the Gross Value Added (GVA) that epitomises the core purpose of the rail network.

Social Value Framework in CP7

As community rail contributes towards delivering such social value, it is considered an essential principle in Network Rail's social value plans for CP7. Under the Social Value Framework, Network Rail has denoted four categorial ambitions:

  • Economic Prosperity: Aiming to bolster people’s skills, enhance educational attainment, and provide opportunities for employment and training while boosting the resilience and capacity of their supply chain.
  • Equal Opportunity: Endeavouring to construct a more inclusive rail network while promoting workforce diversity and inclusion.
  • Well-being: Facilitating community integration and enhancing people’s physical and mental well-being.
  • Covid-19 recovery: Working to reinstate passengers back onto the railway and aiding local communities in recovering from the impact of Covid-19.

Community Rail Emphasis in Regional Plans

North West & Central

Network Rail’s North West & Central CP7 Challenge Panel recognises community rail's crucial input. It expounds on significant benefits from deeper community rail engagement, such as the exploration of common challenges in developing station building projects to derive more community benefits.

Eastern Region

The Eastern plan specifically reiterates their intention to work closely with operators and Community Rail partners on community rail activities, promising to improve the safety of operations through better issue reporting.

Southern Region

The Southern plan also acknowledges the importance of community rails, highlighting how it has been used to promote volunteering, community engagement, and foster partnerships.

Wales & Western

Similar sentiments are conveyed in the Wales & Western delivery plan. The proposed improvements under the partner and community engagement theme underscore the role of community rail groups in promoting rail travel in local communities, advising the industry on local needs, and involving local people in station development.

It becomes evident that community rail has been a pivotal part of discussions in all four regions, reinforcing the integral role that communities have to play in the evolution of the railway industry. In each regional plan, the emphasis on community engagement acts as a testament to the value placed on community input in Network Rail's strategic planning.

In conclusion, the approaches proposed in CP7 focus on delivering social value, working towards an inclusive rail network, and fostering close engagement with the community. By investing in community-related initiatives, with a focus on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, Network Rail hopes to drive community development at a local level, ensuring that their operations meet local needs. 

Such a strategic focus will undoubtedly fortify the relationship between Network Rail and the communities they serve, fostering sustainable development for the future.

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