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Network Rail – good on safety but network performance needs to improve says ORR

5 July 2016  •  Author: Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, European Railway Review

Network Rail achieved a good level of safety during the period 2015-16 but network improvements still need to be made to deliver a better performance for passengers, says the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Network Rail

The ORR has published findings of its latest report which looks at Network Rail’s performance over the past year.

“Over the course of the next year, we need to see evidence that Network Rail’s initiatives are delivering financial efficiencies and noticeable performance improvements” – Joanna Whittington, ORR

The study reveals Network Rail had a good year on safety and there was good progress made on improving its infrastructure. However, this cost more than expected and it is yet to deliver improvements in performance across the entire network.

ORR’s report findings:

  • Safety: There has been good leadership of safety at Network Rail. There have been no worker fatalities or industry-caused passenger deaths on Network Rail’s infrastructure or stations. Network Rail recognises that there is no room for complacency. ORR inspections have found underlying issues such as safety rules and procedures not being followed consistently.
  • Network performance: Network Rail has made progress delivering its plan to improve network performance, putting in more reliable infrastructure such as new tracks, signals and overhead lines. These improvements have not yet translated into better performance for passengers. The company is working with train operators to turn around punctuality for passengers.
  • Engineering Work: Network Rail’s plan to improve management of engineering works has worked.  Easter 2016 saw some 15,000 people, at around 1,000 sites, successfully carrying out £50 million worth of engineering work, with 99% handed back on time.
  • Money: Network Rail spent more money than expected renewing and developing its infrastructure, and this inefficiency is putting pressure on its borrowing facility with Government. The company responded with an ‘enhancement improvement plan’, a review of major projects by Sir Peter Hendy, more scrutiny of spend at the route level, the deferral of work and is considering asset disposals. The Government has also increased its borrowing limit.

The full ORR report on Network Rail performance can be downloaded here.

Commenting on the report, ORR’s chief executive Joanna Whittington said: “Britain’s railways have seen sustained investment in recent years, supporting a further rise in passenger numbers.

“Network Rail is making good progress on health and safety and its programme to improve asset reliability. However, while its track and signals are now more resilient, this cost more than expected and network performance has not improved.

“Over the course of the next year, we need to see evidence that Network Rail’s initiatives are delivering financial efficiencies and noticeable performance improvements for passengers while achieving gains in health and safety.”

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