To ensure the safety and continued operation of the railway network system, many maintenance and renewal activities are performed on the track every month. Unplanned maintenance activities are expensive and would cause low service quality. Therefore, the track condition should be monitored, and when it has degraded beyond some acceptable limit, it should be scheduled for maintenance before failure. An optimal timetable of the maintenance activities is needed to be scheduled, planning the monthly workload, to reduce the effect on the transportation service and to reduce the potential costs. Considering the uncertainties of the deterioration process, the safety of transportation service, the lifetime loss of the replaced track, the maintenance cost and the travel cost, this article advances an optimisation model for the maintenance scheduling of a regional railway network. An enhanced genetic algorithm approach is proposed to search for a solution producing maintenance schedule such that the overall cost is minimised in a finite planning horizon. A case study is given to demonstrate the application of the method. The case study results were derived by using an enhanced genetic algorithm method, which is specifically developed to deal with the characteristics of the railway maintenance problem. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.