Network Rail’s Poor Performance Results in Licence Breach Decision by the Rail Regulator

The Office of The Rail Regulator (ORR) had warned Network Rail (NR) that the railway infrastructure company was not performing well with delays attributed to infrastructure growing, while punctuality targets were being missed by some distance.

ORR Investigation

ORR Investigation leads to recovery plan demands on Network Rail.

The ORR has, in its own words, carried out an extensive investigation into declining punctuality on key parts of Britain’s railways, and has found Network Rail in breach of its licence. It has proposed two enforcement orders requiring the company to develop new robust plans to help recover performance.

Freight Delays

The ORR has decreed that Network Rail is in contravention of its network licence in respect of declining performance in the freight sector. It has not only missed its performance target - currently freight delays are 32% worse than the end of year target - but is not doing all it can to reach this target.

Passenger delays this and next year

It is also likely to contravene its network licence in respect of deteriorating performance of long distance passenger services. Long distance punctuality is currently 87.1%, well short of the regulatory target of 90.9%.

Network Rail has admitted it is not able to deliver the target this year, and is also likely to miss next year’s. ORR needs to be satisfied that Network Rail is doing everything reasonably practicable to achieve its targets, but has been hindered by the lack of robust quantification of initiatives and projections in the plans the company has produced.

ORR Says:

Richard Price, ORR’s Chief Executive, said:

“Rail customers expect high levels of train punctuality. Network Rail has achieved a lot in recent years, but while it signed up to improve performance year-on-year, its performance is now worsening. The company must do everything reasonably practicable to reach its targets and needs to deliver robust plans to prove that it is tackling declining performance, working with train operators to put things right.

“Factors outside Network Rail’s control have contributed to the performance gap, but they do not account for the whole of the discrepancy. Our investigation found that the recent deterioration in performance is down to factors including major asset failures, congested routes and poor management of track condition, in addition to external factors like cable theft.

“Network Rail must shoulder the responsibility for any weakness in its performance. I am also today encouraging passenger and freight operators to work with Network Rail to get the most out of the network for customers.”

Network Rail, Statistics figuratively speaking…

Network Rail on their website on the day of ORR’s announcement proudly proclaimed that 90.4% of trains had run on time in the last 364 days to 15th October 2011 while 10 years ago, the figure was only 78%.

This is best politely described as disingenuous because the rail network was recovering after the Hatfield crash which was as a result of faulty rails due to Gauge Corner Cracking.

Thousands of 20mph speed restrictions were in place at this time rendering punctuality figures irrelevant as timekeeping was simply dreadful!

More trains affects performance

It has to be stated that there are far more trains running now carrying many more passengers than 10 years ago and the chances of service recovery with more trains are less than in British Rail days.

So, higher performance figures are more difficult to achieve when trains spend more time at platforms while passengers board or alight.

But, more performance time has been included in timetables to increase chances of punctuality which in reality is measured in many instances, if the train arrives within 10 minutes of the scheduled time, rather than on time to the minute.

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