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Network Rail falls behind

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The ORR (Office of Rail and Road) has published its latest Network Rail performance statistics, and in part they make sorry reading.

Network Rail has agreed targets to meet for CP5, which runs from 1 April 2014 until 31 March 2019. These are to make sure it delivers value for money, punctuality and reliability, reduces disruption for today’s passengers while improving the railway for the future, and safeguards the sustainability of the rail infrastructure.

ORR’s report shows that Network Rail has not met a number of its enhancements programme delivery targets, with some projects facing delays, and it has also delivered far less work than it planned for the upkeep of the rail network.

In detail, at the end 2014-15, Network Rail had missed 30 out of its 84 planned milestones with some projects facing delays or cost escalations. Track renewal is 7% behind plan, signalling renewals are 63% behind schedule and overhead line renewals are 77% behind target.

While performance on the East Coast main line and freight sector has been good, overall punctuality of train service performance remains at 89.6% – 2.9 percentage points lower than the 92.5% target.

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “Network Rail has made a slow start in delivering on its enhancements and performance targets for CP5 and we have asked it to demonstrate how it plans to get back on schedule to deliver on its commitments to 2019.”

As a consequence of all this, Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin made a statement to the House of Commons. “Since joining Network Rail in 2014, the chief executive Mark Carne has reviewed the organisation’s structure, performance and accountability. He has strengthened his team. He has a structure for improvement. I want to see him drive that forward.

“But there are still challenges – important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer. Electrification is difficult. The UK supply chain for the complex signalling works needs to be stronger.

Construction rates have been slow. It has taken longer to obtain planning consents from some local authorities than expected.

“But that is no excuse. All of these problems could and should have been foreseen by Network Rail.”

He then announced four major changes. When Richard Parry Jones steps down as chairman in July he will be replaced by Sir Peter Hendy, the current Transport Commissioner in London. Secondly, the Secretary of State has appointed Richard Brown as a special director of Network Rail with immediate effect to update him directly on progress. Thirdly, no Network Rail executive director will receive a bonus for the past year and the role of the Public Members has been abolished. Fourthly, Dame Colette Bowe, an experienced economist and regulator, will look at lessons learned and make recommendations in the autumn for better investment planning in future.

Confirming that the Great Western electrification programme was a top priority, he then announced that some work would be ‘paused’ – the electrification of the Midland main line and of the TransPennine route. But the Government remains committed to most of the current workbank.

He finished by stating: “Passengers want a railway that is better, faster and more reliable than today powered by a huge increase in investment and ambition right across the country. That is what they will get.”

Photo: Matt Buck.


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