Network Rail is being forced to hand back £53.1m of its state funding for falling “significantly short” on goals to cut delays on Britain’s railways.
The government confirmed yesterday that the fine would be spent on offering free Wi-Fi on the busiest trains.
In the five years to March 2014, fewer than nine in 10 trains in Britain ran on time, missing the Office of Rail Regulation’s target of 92.5 per cent.
While the fine was the biggest ever to be imposed on Network Rail, which looks after most of the country’s tracks and rail infrastructure, the total was lower than the £75m it warned it could be facing last year.
Network Rail pointed out yesterday that the 89.6 per cent punctuality level was a vast improvement on the 79.2 per cent level it inherited in 2002 after the collapse of Railtrack.
“We accept that we have fallen short of the regulatory targets for train punctuality and that this is, in part, down to our failure to reduce infrastructure faults quickly enough,” said chief executive Mark Carne. “At the same time, the sharp increase in passenger demand has led us to run more trains at peak times, even when we know this will lead to a more congested railway and that punctuality may suffer.”
The public sector body will get £37.5bn over the next five years to spend on upgrades and running costs. As part of this funding package, it will try again to reach a punctuality level of 92.5 per cent by 2019.