Watchdog lashes out at Network Rail for causing delays on trains

Marion Dakers
NETWORK Rail is failing to keep the trains running on time while also falling short on its cost-cutting targets, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said yesterday.

The regulator said Network Rail looks unlikely to hit its goal of cutting spending on operating, maintenance and renewals by 23.5 per cent by March 2014, the end of its current spending period.

The criticism comes at a delicate time for Network Rail (NR), which is in the final stages of negotiating with the ORR over its spending plans for the next five years. The group’s new chief executive Mark Carne starts work next April.

The company, which received £5.1bn in state subsidy in the last financial year, has also overstated its performance when it comes to spending targets – a shortcoming that NR should consider when setting management bonuses, the ORR said.

“[T]he company is falling short of expectations at the moment,” said ORR boss Richard Price. “It is facing many problems of its own making, having failed to deliver plans to renew Britain’s rail network, with delayed works now affecting performance. The company must urgently catch up.”

On punctuality, Network Rail is also falling behind. Just over 91 per cent of trains ran on time in London and the south east of England between April and mid-July, 1.9 percentage points below the ORR’s target. While passenger services are run by franchisees such as First Great Western, the regulator has hit out at Network Rail for causing unplanned disruptions when working on infrastructure.

“Train performance is still, by historical standards, at a high level – last year was the third best year ever recorded – but we know we can do better, especially on our long-distance routes,” said Network Rail yesterday.