Train operators are to take on the maintenance and renewal of parts of the rail network, according to a confidential report seen by NCE.
The draft report, produced by LEK Consulting International for the McNulty rail review team, states that Network Rail should be devolved so that its nine operating routes form regional infrastructure management (IMs) companies.
Operations and maintenance work for up to four of these could be handed over to the train operating companies.
The new approach would be trialled in the Anglia region, and this could happen by the summer of 2013 when the next Anglia franchise, to run from February 2012, ends.
A short franchise is being awarded so it can be re-tendered under new franchise terms set out by the Department for Transport.
If the trial is successful, up to three more regions would be offered as vertically integrated concessions, to last between 15 and 30 years.
These would be regions that are dominated by one train operator. These include Scotland, and the current franchise areas of South West Trains, Southern, South Eastern and National Express East Anglia.
The LEK report recommends two options for integration – operations integration where responsibility for signalling only is transferred to train operators, and full integration, which includes transfer of maintenance and renewals work to the train operator.
A decision on which option will be trialled in the Anglia region has yet to be made.
Operations and maintenance in regions with multiple rail operators would remain under the control of a Network Rail regional route director.
Network Rail has already proposed to McNulty that it devolves operations and asset management duties.
The central functions of Network Rail, which include standards for inter-operability on the network, strategic planning and timetable coordination would all be brought together to form a separate business. This would also include Network Rail’s work on major projects, including Thameslink and Crossrail, which could then be spun out from Network Rail in the future.