Planning and delivering capacity for passengers and freight users is at the heart of everything System Operator does

We focus on the entire railway lifecycle – from the current timetable through to the needs of the railway in 30 years’ time.

System Operator collaborates with the whole industry at a network level – providing strong and high-quality strategic services including ‘capability analysis’ and ‘tactical modelling’. Together we give confidence that the needs of customers are considered, and industry decisions are balanced to support sustainable economic growth.

How we operate

To equip us to deliver the best overall improvements for customers, funders, the industry and the wider economy we integrate all the different parts of the railway. This means working across route and region boundaries with sub-national transport bodies, government departments and other funders.

Our strategic planning communities provide advice and choices to decision makers, especially funders and franchising authorities. We work with stakeholders collaboratively to understand, inform and communicate their goals and show how the railway can help achieve them.

We take an independent and long-term view, that goes beyond the duration of today's franchises, to consider options including different timetable patterns; more trains; longer trains; infrastructure options (e.g. digital railway); or new physical infrastructure (e.g. grade separated junctions).

Our work includes demand forecasts, business case appraisals, whole industry economic and station capacity analysis, geographic and market-based studies, network studies, and portfolio advice to national funders.

Enabling changes to network capability, capacity and operation to be effectively and efficiently managed.

Our franchising team work with the government from early in development stages to make sure franchise specifications and bids realistic and workable.

Our enhancement communities develop the business case and secure funding for investment in the network's capability and capacity. Acting as internal client for the realisation of the intended benefits. Renewals are planned in ways that benefit passengers and align with enhancements to promote operational and financial efficiency.

Event steering groups enable the delivery of major timetable changes and include affected operators and stakeholders.

Facilitating decisions on whether to support potential new access rights.
We provide capacity analysis and performance assessments to inform decision making by customers and the regulator on whether to advance an application for access rights.

The System Operator manages the Sale of Access Rights framework within Network Rail including access policies, the sale of access rights process, and the creation of the network-wide timetable.

Having the System Operator as a capacity allocation body allows Regions and Route Businesses to engage in more collaborative models (such as alliances) while complying with legislative requirements for separation and avoidance of conflicts of interest.

Delivering the timetable by balancing the demand between trains that serve small communities, fast non-stop trains and businesses that rely on freight.

We balance requests for track access from over thirty operating companies alongside the engineering access needs of the infrastructure businesses and publish information on capacity availability and congestion.

Our work includes maintaining the timetable planning rules, developing the Engineering Access Statement, delivering the working Timetable and managing timetable change.

How we are performing

Annual narrative report 2018 – 2019
3 MB

Periodic reports and scorecards

Holding us to account

Acting on behalf of the whole network means making challenging decisions. These may sometimes conflict with the wishes of one of Network Rail’s regions, a funder’s aspiration, or an operator’s business proposal.

Our aim is to be transparent in our decision making and welcome scrutiny.

Independent Advisory Board

‘The Advisory Board’ will hold the System Operator to account, for the development and delivery of its business plan on behalf of funders, customers and end users.

Activities include:

  • Ongoing consideration of our overall performance, priorities, risks, opportunities, plans and funding, capabilities and incentives
  • Monitoring delivery through scorecards and customer surveys
  • Promoting openness, transparency and scrutiny of our work

Independent Advisory Board reports

System Operator publications

England's Economic Heartland Rail Study Phase 1
15 MB
Data Architecture whitepaper
4 MB
New parkway stations guidance
1 MB

Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy documents

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