The planning process for railway funding takes place only every 5 years, so it's worth setting out in simple terms what happens. Control Period 6 (CP6) runs from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2024; at the end of September 2017 there are still 18 months of CP5 left. The spending plans for CP6 started the long process last year with the publication by Network Rail (NR) of its long list of things it would be useful to do over the next 25 years. This gets refined by the DfT (for England and Wales) and Transport Scotland (TS) (for Scotland). Each published its High-Level Output Specification (HLOS) in July, setting out what the various Ministers wished NR to do in CP6. There is a requirement for the publication of a Statement of Funds Available (SoFA) at the same time, but for some reason Secretary of State Grayling chose to defer the DfT's SoFA until "the autumn", undertaking to do so by 13 October.
The next stage is that the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) - the economic (and safety) Regulator - goes over the shopping lists and the amount in the two purses, and comes up with what it thinks is reasonable and affordable. This should happen by the middle of 2018 when a process of haggling begins. The final determination takes place in October 2018, allowing detailed planning for work to start in April 2019.
That's how it should work. The CP5 process in 2012/3 got it hopelessly wrong, however, with ORR demanding what, with hindsight, we now see to be too great a degree of cost-saving. As work proceeded what actually happened in many major pieces of infrastructure enhancement was that unforeseen problems caused costs to increase, in some cases by huge amounts. ORR has a degree of responsibility for this. As "Industry Insider" said in RAIL 832, "... those of us who have been at the sharp end know that a 24x7 operation conducted outdoors in all weathers looks a bit different when compared with the comfort of an air-conditioned office and a spreadsheet". ORR will wish to avoid this criticism in the CP6 process.
Luckily the Scottish network was spared the worst of this, but CP5 is not without problems here. Most projects are now expected to be delivered late. This causes much finger-pointing in Parliament and the Press, but it's worth remembering that a project completed late is a project completed; a project cancelled, or de-scoped (like Borders Rail) is a project left incomplete.
TS made it clear in the Scottish HLOS that there would be more detail in November. FoFNL is keeping its fingers crossed that the powerful case we have made for infrastructure spending on the Lentran Loop is going to be heeded for CP6. We sense an open door.