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Regulator reports on Network Rail’s performance between 2009 and 2014

7 July 2014  •  Author: The Office of Rail Regulation

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has today concluded its assessment of Network Rail’s performance against funded obligations between 2009 and 2014. ORR highlights enhancements and growth in Britain’s railways, as well as shortfalls in performance for passengers which require Network Rail to return £53.1m to funders and improve the resilience of the network.

ORR’s analysis identified a number of significant successes over the past five years, including:

  • Network Rail delivered a major rail enhancement programme largely on time and budget, bringing real benefits to passengers. Across 118 projects, 98 were delivered early or on time, with only one delayed in a way which had a notable impact on customers. The company has also electrified railways in the North West of England to bring more reliable services to the region.
  • The company has made significant investment in Britain’s freight network through projects to improve capacity and reliability of freight services. This included schemes to enable the running of longer trains and the introduction of new routes on the East Coast corridor.
  • Network Rail helped to improve safety at levels crossings, as more than 800 crossings across Britain have been upgraded or closed.
  • Working with the rail industry, Network Rail is helping to carry record numbers of passengers and freight on the rail network. There were more than 1.5bn passenger journeys on the network in 2013-14, up from around 1.2bn in 2008-09. The amount of freight goods carried has increased from 102.7 million tonnes in 2008-09 to 116.6 million tonnes in 2013-14.
  • Network Rail and train operators worked well together to keep rail services running safely throughout challenging weather conditions of winter 2013-14. The company worked quickly to recover routes affected by the weather, as demonstrated in its work to repair the line for services running through Dawlish.

However, investigations into the company’s operational performance found important areas in which the company has not achieved funded targets:

  • Punctuality for long distance passenger services: Network Rail committed to deliver average punctuality levels of 92% in the sector in 2013-14 and was funded to do so. The company fell significantly short of this funded target in delivering 86.9%. Network Rail did not deliver all of its plans to improve performance and, particularly in the early years of the funding period, had insufficient knowledge of the condition of its key assets, such as earthworks, electrical equipment and drainage. Under an order made by ORR in 2012, taking account of issues beyond Network Rail’s control, the company will return £53.1m to funders for failure to deliver its agreed obligations in 2013-14.
  • Punctuality for London and the South East (LSE) passenger services: Network Rail was funded to achieve average punctuality levels of 93% in 2013-14. The company achieved punctuality levels of 89.6%. As a result of missing its funded obligations, and to address issues which have disrupted services for passengers, the company has committed extra funds to improve the resilience of the rail network in LSE. Plans expected to include projects costing at least £25m must be in place by December 2014.

ORR Chief Executive Richard Price said:

“Network Rail has been successful in modernising and improving Britain’s railways over the past five years, during a period which has seen a record rise in passenger numbers.

“Punctuality is important to passengers. Network Rail committed to improve train punctuality between 2009 and 2014, and was funded to do so. But it did not deliver its commitments for passengers who travel on long distance and London and South East services. Network Rail fell significantly short of punctuality for long distance services, so it is right that money is returned to funders. The company will be undertaking extensive maintenance and renewal work to improve punctuality on long distance services between 2014 and 2019. It has committed extra funds to improve the resilience of the rail network in London and the South East for better reliability of services in the future.

“Network Rail’s performance will continue to be under the spotlight. Network Rail has committed to deliver the basics in planning and managing the reliability of key components of the rail network such as bridges and earthworks, and deliver its performance plans to ensure it meets all obligations for customers between 2014 and 2019. The company has shown it can plan performance effectively and predict and prevent problems before they cause disruption – as demonstrated for the London 2012 Olympics – and it must repeat these standards across the entire network.”

Network Rail, working with the rail industry, has now embarked on plans to improve the safety, performance and efficiency of Britain’s railways between 2014 and 2019. The company must do more to ‘predict and prevent’ problems on the network before they create disruption for passengers – enhanced asset management, planning and delivery of maintenance, renewal, and resilience works are vital. ORR has introduced new regulatory targets to ensure the company strengthens its asset management and delivers its plans. We will be scrutinising the company’s performance very closely over the coming years to ensure it delivers all of its obligations for passengers, and to make sure we are in a position to intervene – where necessary – before problems emerge.

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