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Coucher says NR business plan has 'minimal mismatch' with government funds

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher has said the rail maintenance contractor's Strategic Business Plan, announced earlier this month, has a minimal mismatch with the cash announced for rail in the summer's Statement of Funds Available (SOFA).

Network Rail's plan is designed to meet the Government's shopping list for rail - the High-Level Output Specification (HLOS).

SOFA is cash the government will provide Network Rail to meet HLOS. Network Rail's business plan outlines how it intends to address HLOS, but SOFA money may not cover all of the works planned.

The Office of Rail Regulation will now examine Network Rail's business plan, to see whether it could meet HLOS using SOFA cash.

"We are there or therebouts," Coucher told a packed audience at Scott Wilson's third annual transport dinner, held at the ICE in London.

"The Strategic Business Plan was launched two weeks ago in response to the Government statement," he said.

"There is a mismatch, but it is there or therebouts," he said.

"We expect debt to grow frm £18.9bn now to £34bn or £35bn. We will raise much of that without Government help. It an issue to resolve," he said.

He also said that NR would like to upgrade much of the track to tougher slab track. "While the inital outlay is greater, slab track will pay for itself over time," he said.

Coucher outlined Network Rail's commitment to training, and said he would like to employ "200 or 300 graduates per year, which is an investment, even if they do not stay working for us, they will most likely stay within the industry," he said.

He also had praise for Network Rail's apprentice scheme at Gosport, "In three years, 750 new engineers and technicians have gone onto our books. These are our future," he said.

Coucher outlined some of the innovative techniques the company will use to ensure 8 hour posessions, essential for a 7-day per week railway. You can read our feature outlining these innovations here.

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