Network Rail’s profits soar but delays also rise

Marion Dakers
NETWORK Rail yesterday said its yearly profits after tax passed £1.2bn last year while investment increased – though delays have risen further.

NR, the public sector body responsible for Britain’s railway tracks and many of the big stations, said 90 per cent of trains ran on time in the year to the end of March, down from 90.9 per cent a year ago and drifting further from the 92.5 per cent target set by the regulator.

The Office of Rail Regulation slapped a £70m fine on NR earlier this year for missing its five-year punctuality goals.

NR said last month that it had cut the maximum bonus for executives and would only pay out if the railway became more punctual and safe.

The group claimed yesterday that some of the delays were due to the booming popularity of Britain’s rail services, which have seen passenger numbers double since 1995 to pass 1.5bn journeys last year.

“We are in the middle of a rail renaissance, with record levels of passenger numbers and record levels of investment. This flourishing sector is investing heavily to improve the railway for today and for tomorrow,” said NR boss Mark Carne.

NR spent £6.87bn on infrastructure upgrades during the year, up from £5.05bn in the prior year. The organisation has been given the green light to invest £38bn on improvement work in the next five years.

Last year’s 86 per cent rise in profits came chiefly from a £221m tax credit and a hedging gain of £304m. All earnings are reinvested.

The group generated £6.3bn in revenues, up 2.2 per cent. This mostly comes from charging operators to access the track, renting out property and taking government grants.

NR’s debt pile, which was last year officially moved on to the state’s books, rose from £30.4bn to almost £33bn. The debts are worth 65 per cent of its assets, well within its 75 per cent limit.

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