Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Network Rail is a British "not for dividend" Company Limited by Guarantee that owns the fixed assets of that part of the British railway system that formerly belonged to British Rail, the now defunct UK state-owned rail operator.
Thus Network Rail owns the railway tracks themselves, signals, tunnels, bridges, level crossings and stations, but not the rolling stock. Network Rail took over ownership by buying Railtrack plc, which was in "Railway Administration", for £500 million from Railtrack Group plc.
Network Rail and National Rail
The term Network Rail should not be confused with the term National Rail. Network Rail is a legal entity responsible for owning and managing the fixed assets of a network of railway lines. National Rail is a brand used to explain and promote a network of passenger railway services.
In terms of geography the two networks are very similar, but not exactly the same. Most Network Rail lines also carry freight traffic, some lines are freight only, a few lines carry passenger traffic (for example Eurostar, Heathrow Express and London Underground trains) that is not part of the National Rail network. Conversely some National Rail network services operate in part over track that is not part of the Network Rail network (for example where they run on London Underground owned track).
In October 2003, Network Rail announced that it would take over all track maintenance work from private contractors, following concerns about the quality of work carried out by certain private firms, and spiralling costs. While the company maintained that this was not a step towards renationalisation of the entire network, many commentators saw the move as a sign that the privatisation of the railways was unraveling.
This impression was heightened in February 2004 by the opening of an operations centre at Waterloo station in London, operated jointly by Network Rail and the train operating company South West Trains. This was the first full collaboration of its kind since privatisation, and it is currently regarded as a model for other areas of the network, with a further five integrated National Rail + TOC Control Centres having opened since then, located at Blackfriars, Croydon, Swindon, Glasgow and, most recently, Liverpool Street, which was opened by Alistair Darling on 2005-02-23.
Track renewals, the on-going modernisation of the railway network by replacing track and signalling systems, continues to be carried out by private engineering firms under contract. The biggest renewals project is the multi-billion pounds upgrade of the London to Glasgow West Coast Mainline.
Network Rail owns almost all railway stations on the National Rail network. Management of most Network Rail owned stations is carried out by the principal train operating company serving that station. However seventeen of the largest and busiest stations are directly managed by Network Rail itself. These are:
- Birmingham New Street
- Cannon Street
- Charing Cross
- Edinburgh Waverley
- Fenchurch Street
- Gatwick Airport
- Glasgow Central
- King's Cross
- Leeds City
- Liverpool Lime Street
- Liverpool Street
- London Bridge
- Manchester Piccadilly
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