We're responsible for understanding and shaping what the future of Britain's railway looks like through delivery of long-term plans.

This work is done by dedicated ‘Strategic Network Planning teams’. Their job is to understand;

  • how the railway contributes to national and regional economic growth and improvements in social well-being
  • what the railway is capable of and how it delivers a service to passengers and freight users
  • what the likely changes to demand, passenger needs and patterns of train service will be in the future
  • what kind of changes to the railway as a whole we should make in future.

Strategic Network Planning work at a local level, with our regions; the industry; from train operators; and transport bodies to provide strategic advice to funders.

Funders use this advice to understand the complexities of the railway and to make informed investment decisions.

These investment decisions could be potential changes required to service specification, the timetable, rolling stock and/or infrastructure. The recommendations focus on the long-term railway – ensuring rail provides socio-economic benefits for passengers, freight-users and the general public.

The LTPP looks at the long-term capability of the network up to 30 years into the future so that we can promote efficient use of network capability and capacity.

It doesn’t develop views on detailed near-term timetable planning, rolling stock disposition or station improvements, nor does it take a view on the need for new stations.

The LTPP replaces the Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) process. It’s more flexible and it looks further ahead which means that the industry can develop potential infrastructure interventions and explore important strategic issues. As part of the LTPP, we maintain the RUS recommendations, a requirement set out in our licence condition.

You can still see our Route Utilisation Strategies and find out more about the RUS process by following the link in our list of documents on this page.

The LTTP research and consultation we do helps us to continually improve. We publish draft LTPP consultation documents for consultation online allowing for a consultation period of 90 days, so that Local Authorities and other stakeholders have time to brief their members on the work.

The responses received in the consultation process help to form the final document. Subject to any representations being upheld by the Office of Rail and Road, each study is then finalised 60 days later. The final versions are then published.

  • Market studies, which identify the strategic goals for each market sector of the rail industry over the next 30 years. They forecast the level of demand and the opportunities that higher levels may bring, and calculate what would be needed in order to meet these strategic goals.
  • Local studies, which bring together the suggested outputs for all the market sectors for a particular part of the network. They evaluate the trade-offs between these suggested outputs for the different sectors and between the outputs and costs (including the cost of changes to capability). The local studies then form a view of the likely long-term allocation of capacity between sectors in order to inform decisions on the appropriate capability of the network. Services that operate across one or more local study boundaries are considered by a cross-boundary analysis working group to provide input to individual local studies.
  • Network-wide studies, which identify strategic choices and appraise solutions to network-wide issues, including the benefits and challenges of technological change across the network.
  • Network and Route Specifications (10-year and 30-year views) to devolve network capability requirements to Strategic Route Sections for the whole country.

Through the LTPP we inform (and are informed by) funders’ decisions on industry outputs, although the way in which we do this may vary according to whether those decisions are made through the High Level Output Specification process, the franchising process or the enhancement framework.

For the High Level Output Specification process, the Network Route Specifications are expected to be the main source of proposals to put to funders in the Initial Industry Advice for Control Period 6 (2019-2024) and beyond.

The LTPP as a whole develops priorities for the various funding mechanisms such as the Network Rail Discretionary Fund, Strategic Freight Network and Scottish Small Projects fund.

LTPP outputs are available to train operating companies to inform franchise specifications and bids, and data from both the market and local study analysis is available to franchise bidders. This flexible process helps with efficient planning, and depends on individual franchise scenarios at the time work is developed.

Network Rail leads on the LTPP, working in partnership with the rail industry, key funders and specifiers (such as the Department for Transport, Transport Scotland, Welsh Government, Transport for London, and Integrated Transport Authorities), and local stakeholders where relevant, including local authorities.

It’s informed by stakeholder contributions as required, including from local authorities, Passenger Transport Executives, Local Economic Partnerships, the Association of Train Operating Companies, the Rail Freight Group and others.

The governance body for the whole of the LTPP is the Rail Industry Planning Group (RIPG). We manage and co-ordinate the constituent parts of the LTPP and are responsible for agreeing the programme of work with the Office of Rail Regulation.

The rail industry uses Government forecasting methodology to inform the LTTP, which considers a wide range of economic scenarios to assess expected demand.

All of our work to date points to further significant demand on Britain’s rail network. The industry developed the LTPP methodology to take into account the latest thinking on economic forecasting, modelling, and the benefits that the railway can bring, including consideration of the wider economic benefits of the rail network. Changes to the capability of the rail network take time to implement, and the LTPP allows the industry to keep up with increasing demand.

The timescales for the programme as a whole are designed to inform the High Level Output Specification for Control Period 6; and individual local studies will be designed wherever possible to finish a minimum of 18 months before the relevant franchise renewal(s).

LTPP documents

You will find our long-term planning documents in the list below.

Long term planning

Long Term Planning Process programme
133 KB
Long distance market study
3 MB
Regional urban market study 2013
5 MB
London and South East market study
2 MB
Network licence and conditions
231 KB

Anglia planning

Anglia route study
5 MB
Anglia route study summary
2 MB
Anglia route specification
8 MB
Anglia network specification
969 KB
Cambridgeshire Corridor Study 2019
7 MB
Great Eastern Main Line Study 2019
4 MB
Essex Thameside Study 2020
5 MB

Freight planning

Freight network study 2017
10 MB
Freight network study 2017 – summary
2 MB
Digital Railway for Freight and National Passenger Operators
2 MB
Continuous Modular Strategic Planning
Rail freight forecasts: Scenarios for 2023/24
3 MB
Issued May 2018, revised August 2020
Rail freight forecasts: Scenarios for 2033/34 & 2043/44
3 MB
Issued July 2019, revised August 2020
Routeing of rail freight forecasts
6 MB
Issued August 2020

Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy documents

Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy – Interim Programme Business Case
6 MB
Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy – Executive Summary
657 KB

LNE & EM planning

East Coast Main Line Route Study
9 MB
East Coast Main Line Route Study – Technical Appendices
5 MB
East Midlands route study
4 MB
East Midlands route study summary
1 MB
LNE & EM route specification
11 MB
LNE & EM network specification
1 MB
East Coast Main Line Route Study – Consultation Responses
923 KB
North of England Freight Study 2018
3 MB
Trent Junctions Study 2019
1 MB
Sheffield Area Study 2019
645 KB
Hull Area Strategic Study 2019
2 MB
Church Fenton to Newcastle Strategic Advice 2020
3 MB
Leeds Area Strategic Study 2020
3 MB
Leicester Area Strategic Advice 2020
4 MB

LNW planning

LNW network specification
2 MB
LNW route specification
10 MB
West Midlands and Chilterns route study final
10 MB
West Midlands and Chilterns route study – technical appendices
6 MB
Midlands strategy summary
3 MB
Chiltern and East West Rail strategy – summary
2 MB
Cumbrian Coast Study 2019
7 MB
How to accommodate forecast growth on the Cheshire Line Committee corridor
1 MB
Greater Manchester's South East Rail Corridor Study 2020
5 MB
Liverpool City Region Strategic Rail Study 2020
3 MB

Scotland planning

Scotland route study
4 MB
Scotland route study appendices
4 MB
Scotland route specification
19 MB
Scotland network specification
684 KB

South East planning

South East (Sussex area) route study
4 MB
South East route specification
5 MB
South East network specification
1 MB
Kent Route Study – print version
9 MB
Kent Route Study – interactive version
73 MB
Kent Route Study – Technical Appendix
33 MB
Kent Route Study – summary document
1 MB
West Sussex Connectivity Modular Strategic Study
7 MB

Wales planning

Welsh route study
5 MB
Welsh route study summary
292 KB
Astudiaeth llwybr Cymraeg
5 MB
Wales route specification
4 MB
Wales network specification
1 MB
Understanding the impact of the Shoreline Management Plans on the railway across Wales & Borders – Interim Findings
3 MB
Deall effaith y Cynlluniau Rheoli Traethlin ar y rheilffyrdd ar draws Cymru a’r Gororau – Canfyddiadau Interim
998 KB

Wessex planning

Wessex route study
4 MB
Wessex route specification
4 MB
Wessex network specification
3 MB
Solent Connectivity – Continuous Modular Strategic Planning
5 MB
West of England Study – Continuous Modular Strategic Planning
3 MB

Western planning

Western route study
7 MB
Western route specification
7 MB
Western network specification
5 MB


Freight network study

Market studies