Network Rail falls short on punctuality

Network Rail, the authority responsible for the operation of the UK’s rail network, missed all of its punctuality targets for the last 12 months in England and Wales, according to figures issued by the UK government’s rail regulator.

Due to its shortcomings (or should that be late-comings?) Network Rail could now face government-imposed penalties of as much as £75 million for its performance up until year end March 31, 2013. Official figures from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) showed a decline in train punctuality of 0.7 percent on the previous year, to 90.9 percent from 91.6 percent.

The ORR had set a target of 92.7 percent for London and the southeast, which Network Rail missed by 1.7 percent. Long distance services fared even worse, with regions including Virgin’s West Coast Mainline, falling 4.5 percent short of the regulator’s 87 percent target.

Commenting for Virgin Rail Group, its chief executive, Tony Collins, said, ‘Network Rail has consistently failed to deliver what it is contracted to deliver. That has directly affected customers’ experience, and their impression of rail travel. So any penalties levied on Network Rail should be in the form of tangible improvements that customers benefit from. There is really no benefit to Network Rail, customers or VRG in having money leave the industry.’

Virgin rail added that 70 percent of delays were the result of issues with infrastructure, which were Network Rail’s responsibility.

In its defence, Network Rail said that it had spent £5 billion on renewal and extension of the UK’s rail network in 2012/13. Patrick Butcher, its Group finance director, said, ‘The challenge we have faced over the last year, and will continue to face in the years ahead, is one of success – more people wanting to use more trains, more of the time. Over the last 12 months we have invested an unprecedented amount in growing and expanding the rail network through over 2,000 projects nationwide.

‘However, the economic times in which we live mean that alongside delivering new capacity we need to keep a constant drive for improved efficiency. Our overall financial performance remains strong and we are on track to deliver over £5bn of cost savings for the five years to 2014.’