The owner of Britain’s rail network plans to double its spending on adaptation to climate risks between 2024 and 2029, but conceded that vital infrastructure will deteriorate over the period.

Network Rail launched on Friday its Strategic Business Plan for England and Wales. The draft is a key part of the state company’s budget process and covers a five-year “control period” starting next April.

The effects of recent extreme weather events on track and other equipment have highlighted the need for UK railways to invest more in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Network Rail announced its plan after the government committed £44.1bn for the 2024-29 period, known as CP7, of the business plan. The company sets separate budgets for its work in Scotland, where transport policy is a delegated matter.

The figure is 8.1 per cent higher than the pledge for the current five-year period (£40.8bn), but represents an increase below inflation.

The company said it would spend £1bn on “climate resilient” measures such as improving drainage and shoring up earthworks such as embankments. The investment is double the £500m that will be spent on climate resilience in the five years ending March 2024.

The railway has suffered worsening floods in recent years as rain storms have gotten stronger, while many embankments have become less stable due to long dry spells, such as last summer.

The Office of Rail and Highways, the industry regulator, warned earlier this week that the company was already behind on inspections of key assets such as bridges, and that the reliability and safety of infrastructure could suffer as a result.

The company will spend a further £600m to reduce its own impact on the environment, by reducing its carbon emissions, enhancing biodiversity around rail lines and other initiatives.

However, Network Rail warned that the restrictions on its spending meant that the condition of the system would deteriorate over the next five years.

“We expect a decrease in the reliability of the assets. . . given the way we have had to prioritize and allocate available funds to achieve our goals,” the business plan said.

Network Rail said it had been forced to prioritize spending on the most safety-critical areas, such as signalling, and the areas where investment would yield the greatest economic and social benefits. That meant that investment in some areas, such as replacing worn-out tracks, would have to be cut.

In the meantime, delays in track renovations are likely to lead to the imposition of emergency measures, such as speed restrictions. “The indication is that the average age of assets will increase and . . . they have a small impact on train performance,” the company said.

The company was seeking to minimize the effect of deterioration on passengers and cargo customers, he added. He hoped to reduce delays from train breakdowns and problems caused by other parties, thus offsetting delays caused by infrastructure failures.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said the plan was “ambitious” and “passenger and customer focused”. He added that it reflected the “current complexities and challenges facing the industry.”

“There will certainly be obstacles ahead and I look forward to working collaboratively with the industry to deliver on this plan, reshape the industry and build a railway that is fit for the future,” he said.

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