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In 2002 Network Rail took over as owner and operator of Britain’s railway infrastructure. This page shows the highlights in our history since then
When Network Rail took over the railway in England, Wales and Scotland, our mandate from government was to improve safety, reliability and efficiency on the network.
Since 2002 we’ve almost halved the cost of running the railway, driven up its asset reliability to record levels, significantly improved train punctuality and made Britain’s railway the safest in Europe.
Use the drop-down boxes to find out more about our history:
The biggest single change
during our first five years was bringing infrastructure maintenance in house.
This almost doubled the size of our workforce and brought many benefits,
Since 2005 our award-winning advanced apprenticeship scheme has given more than 2,000 young people an intensive three-year training
in one of five core areas of railway engineering: electrification and plant, overhead lines, signalling, telecoms, and track or off track.
We also launched our leadership development programme in 2005, in partnership with Warwick University Business School.
In 2013 we relocated nearly 3,000 of our people to the Quadrant MK, our new national centre in Milton Keynes. One of the most environmentally sustainable buildings in Britain, the Quadrant is rated ‘Excellent’ using the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.
In 2012 we awarded EDF Energy a 10-year contract to supply low-carbon electricity to power the growing electrified rail network. We also started proactively publishing our data without a mandatory requirement to do so, as part of our commitment to transparency.
Our priorities when we took over running the railway in 2002 were to improve safety and punctuality, and to reduce costs. These all remain as important as ever. But now the most urgent challenge we face is the need to increase the railway’s capacity.
Over the past 20 years passenger numbers have doubled – more than 4.5m people use the network every day. This is twice as many passengers as in the 1920s – when the network was more than twice its current size.
Almost 1.7 billion passenger journeys are now made on our railway every year. That’s a third more journeys than five years ago and this growth is set to continue.
This ever-increasing demand on the railway means that congestion is a huge daily challenge, particularly at peak times of day. More trains are needed to help ease congestion, but there just isn’t enough space to run them on the existing network.
This is why Network Rail is now carrying out the biggest railway investment programme since the Victorian era. Between 2014 and 2019, we are investing more than £25 billion in growing and expanding the railway infrastructure. Projects such as our Thameslink Programme, Reading redevelopment, Borders railway project and thousands of smaller projects will mean a bigger, better railway for the people and businesses that rely on it every day.
Find out more about how we are growing the railway.