Network Rail has been handed a record £53.1m fine for missing punctuality targets, the industry regulator reported today.
In its assessment of the company that runs Britain's tracks, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) criticised Network Rail for falling "significantly short" of the funded 92 per cent average punctuality targets, achieving just 87 per cent.
ORR chief executive Richard Price said:
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 on 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.
Network Rail, the public sector body responsible for Britain’s railway tracks and many of the big stations, accepted that it had fallen short of the regulatory targets. It blamed this on its failure to reduce infrastructure faults quickly enough, forcing it to run more services to meet increasing demand.
The network transported 1.5bn passengers in 2013-14, an increase from 1.2bn five years earlier.
Part of the money from the fine, the biggest sanction of its kind, will go towards funding an improved Wi-Fi service on commuter trains. The highest fine that the regulator handed out before today was £14m, imposed for late engineering works in 2008.
Despite the penalty, Price did have some words of praise for Network Rail.
"Network Rail has been successful in modernising and improving Britain's railways over the past five years, during a period which has seen record numbers of passengers," he said.
The company will continue to undertake extensive maintenance and renewal work to improve punctuality on long distance services between 2014 and 2019.