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Network Rail commits to gender equality in its £47 billion five-year plan

The company has pledged to become a greener, more diverse employer as well as improving infrastructure in its latest five-year plan.

Network Rail has announced it plans to hire 50% more women over the next five years as part of its commitment to diversity as it unveiled its record £47 billion business development plan.

On Tuesday, the company pledged to recruit equal numbers of male and female graduates and apprentices, as well as to provide changing facilities “for all genders” on its sites.

The plan – which has seen a 25% increase in base funding on the preceding period – prioritises staff mental health and wellbeing alongside big investment on improving Britain’s existing railways.

The strategy would see the number of female staff jump from 6,400 currently to more than 9,000 in Network Rail’s 38,000-strong workforce.

It also aimed to give staff a more dignified working environment and reduce the number of staff absences caused by mental health problems by 30%.

The report said: “By the end of 2019, we have committed to providing adequate toilet and changing facilities for all genders at all sites throughout the country.

“No trains will discharge toilets on to the track by this time too, which will significantly improve the working environment of our staff and help us to provide a workplace of dignity and respect.”

Network Rail said at least 25% of its budget had been earmarked to improve infrastructure after big development projects in the previous five-year plan.

The report said that a dramatic increase in the number of services each year meant that more passengers could face delays in the event of an unforeseen incident on the network, and outlined a number of upgrades to try to combat the problem.

By 2021 there will be almost 350,000 more services per year than today - an average of an extra 1,000 services a day Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive

Among the upgrades planned is the phasing out of analogue signalling to be replaced by a new digital system, aimed at drastically reducing the number of delays caused by signal failure.

Network Rail said the digitalised signalling system would allow more services to run, more safely and at a lower cost.

It said carriages on new trains would also be fitted with technology to detect faults on the track and notify a control centre, allowing them to be corrected more quickly and reduce delays.

By 2021 there will be 7,000 new carriages enabled with this technology, Network Rail said.

The company also listed a number of environmental commitments, including reducing energy consumption by 18%, reducing carbon emissions by 25% and increasing biodiversity on the railways.

It also promised to provide free toilets and drinking fountains at stations under its control.

The plan stated: “We have listened to our passengers and will be making the use of toilet facilities free at all of our managed stations, and we will also introduce water fountains to cut down on plastic.”

Network Rail did not list a raft of new projects, saying that in future projects would be announced on a case-by-case basis once they had been approved, rather than including them in future five-year plans.

Chief executive Mark Carne said in a statement: “Passengers’ journeys will be transformed in the next few years as thousands of new trains enter service.

“By 2021 there will be almost 350,000 more services per year than today – an average of an extra 1,000 services a day, better connecting communities and driving economic growth across the country.

“This plan builds on these improvements and sets out how we will make the railway more reliable and cost efficient and how we accelerate the technological transformation of our railway into the digital age.”

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