The rail regulator has signalled its intention to channel productivity at Network Rail.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said the rail infrastructure operator needed to deliver more effectively with its existing resources.
Network Rail last year outlined plans to sell £1.8bn of assets, borrow £700M and delay certain projects beyond 2019 as it sought to get through its troubled current investment programme.
Now the ORR has started the process of assessing what Network Rail should achieve in its next control period, from 2019 to 2024.
In a consultation document, the ORR said the fallout from the difficulties faced in recent years had implications for the future.
It said these included “the need: for the regulatory framework to adapt and reflect lessons learnt; and to encourage Network Rail to deliver more effectively with the resources it has, where it can have the most impact for users”.
The document added: “The expectations for the company will need to be realistic and informed by the likely level of performance at the end of the current control period in 2019.”