Network Rail regulation and performance


ORR expects more renewal delays, says Network Rail ‘must do more’ when planning for CP6

The rail regulator has said Network Rail must do more to prepare ahead of its £34bn five-year plan for CP6.

The ORR set out its annual assessment of the infrastructure owner’s performance in England and Wales this week, and highlighted several areas of improvement ahead of CP6, which starts on 1 April 2019.

Improved punctuality was one of the highlights of the ORR’s assessment: 87.6% of trains arrived on time in 2017-18, almost 5% worse than its target. This week the regulator criticised South Western Railway and Network Rail for “unacceptable” services of poor performance in recent months.

ORR also criticised NR’s renewals of its networks: the organisation deferred £441m of work to renew the network in 2017-18 in order to keep within its budget, although this has the adverse effect of increasing the backlog of work to catch up on in CP6.

“This is essential to future reliability and Network Rail’s business plans set out how they plan to do this,” the regulator added.

Preparedness and safety were two additional points of attention, with the ORR claiming Network Rail’s routes “have more to do” to plan for CP6, including booking network access for planned work. The regulator, which promised to continue to monitor NR’s preparedness and to provide a further update in November, also highlighted a need for “risk management best practice to be adopted across all routes to ensure consistency.”

Despite Network Rail’s reliability improving, with a 1.7% reduction in the number of infrastructure-related failures, its budget “remains tight,” with only £100m of headroom allowed for unanticipated costs in 2018-19.

ORR noted that the tight budget makes it more likely that the company would have to defer more renewal work in the future to keep within budget.

Joanna Whittington, ORR’s chief executive, said: “Passengers and freight customers rely on Network Rail to deliver a high-quality service every day. Our assessment shows that it is delivering well on safety, but a significant improvement is required to make it more efficient and to address the very poor levels of performance which many passengers are currently experiencing.”

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