ORR demands better performance for long distance rail passengers

Published on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 16:27
Posted by Scott Buckler

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has today told Network Rail to deliver better levels of punctuality for passengers on long distance train services, or face a substantial penalty

Following an extensive investigation, the rail regulator has instructed Network Rail to deliver plans agreed with train operators for better levels of punctuality on long distance services in 2012-13, and speed-up further improvements towards meeting its committed punctuality target of 92% in 2013-14. If the company fails to deliver the 2013-14 target it will face a substantial financial penalty. The size of any financial penalty will reflect the extent of Network Rail’s failure to meet the commitment, increasing by £1.5 million per 0.1 percentage point it drops below the 92% punctuality target.

While passengers are experiencing good levels of punctuality by historical standards – currently 89.2% for long distance services - Network Rail committed to achieving more, and taxpayers and customers have paid the company to deliver. ORR’s investigation showed that the company struggled to cope with the challenges of reaching its long distance punctuality target. The rail regulator, while recognising the impact of issues such as cable theft, concluded that many of the difficulties Network Rail has encountered, including problems with timetable planning and predicting and spotting equipment failures, are of the company’s own making. More trains are running on the network but the company could have done more to deal with the risks to performance.

ORR Chief Executive, Richard Price, said:

    “Levels of punctuality on long distance rail services across Britain are good by historical standards but passengers should be experiencing even better levels of train performance, benefitting from the punctuality commitments which they and taxpayers have funded Network Rail to deliver.

    “Let me be clear, we expect Network Rail to hit their targets, and to achieve this by implementing sustainable improvements that really benefit passengers. In the last year, approximately 13.7 million passengers’ journeys on long distance trains were affected by late or cancelled trains – and this is unacceptable. That is why we are proposing a penalty which puts pressure on Network Rail to achieve its funded target – an incentive for the company to do everything it can to deliver improvements for passengers including reducing the number of long delays that impact so badly on rail users.

    “We will not allow Network Rail to rest at ‘good’ performance when the public have paid the company to achieve excellence. It is our duty as the regulator to push for improvements for passengers - and that is what we will do.”

When ORR sets Network Rail’s funding for the next five year period (2014-2019), it will take into account failure to deliver the outputs for which the company was paid in the current period. Additionally, ORR will consider, in its annual assessment of Network Rail’s financial performance, whether it should adjust its assessment of efficiency for a failure to deliver the commitments.

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