Network Rail needs to spend a further £1bn on Britain's railways in order to prioritise reliability and safety after recent performances have failed passengers, the rail regulator has said.
In its review of Network Rail's five-year spending plan, the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) said the total budget for maintenance and renewal should be taken up to £16bn, with the recommended additional £1bn coming from cost and efficiency savings.
Network Rail needed to "work effectively" with all passenger train companies and "fully engage" with them when finalising passenger performance targets, the ORR said, after delays to infrastructure projects were blamed by both government and passengers for the recent timetable changes that have wreaked havoc through the country.
The delays meant key timetable changes were finalised late to the chagrin of the private train companies it works with, Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern, meaning drivers were not trained or familiarised with the new routes until the new timetable was well underway.
The fiasco forced Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, to launch an inquiry into what went wrong. Stephen Glaister, the chair of the ORR, has been chosen to lead the inquiry, which has prompted some concerns over a conflict of interest.
The ORR singled out performance targets for the Wessex, south east and Anglia routes for review, although it said Network Rail's route-based plans were "better than the plans for the previous five years".
ORR Chief Executive Joanna Whittington said: "ORR’s initial assessment of Network Rail’s five year plans shows that the transition from a centrally run company to one structured round eight geographic routes has improved the quality of the plans but we want to see £1bn more spent on renewing the railway to improve reliability and boost safety.
"ORR will be monitoring and enforcing delivery by each of the routes, so that passengers and freight customers will be able to rely on the railway for the essential service it provides.”
ORR will publish its final determination at the end of October.