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Better punctuality or fines, ORR warns Network Rail

Network Rail has been instructed to deliver better punctuality for long distance train services, or face a “substantial financial penalty” – totalling £1.5m for every tenth of a percentage point by which it misses its target.

The ORR has warned that the company must improve towards meeting its punctuality target of 92% in 2013-14. Punctuality on long-distance services is currently at 89.2% 

The ORR accepts that some challenges, such as cable theft, are beyond Network Rail’s direct control but added that the company “could have done more to deal with risks to performance”.

The size of any financial penalty will reflect the extent of Network Rail’s failure to meet the commitment, the ORR stated, increasing by £1.5m per 0.1 percentage point it drops below the 92% punctuality target.

ORR chief executive, Richard Price, said: “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, something Price labelled “unacceptable”.

He continued: “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.”

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, welcomed the action being taken and suggested that any fines levied should be re-invested in better facilities and services for the benefit of passengers.

He added: “It will be important that the regulator follows through with what is in effect a suspended sentence if performance does not improve.”

Michael Roberts, chief executive of ATOC said: “The regulator is right to take a firm line with Network Rail. The big problem for long distance rail passengers is lack of consistency in train service punctuality and Network Rail needs to do a better job of managing the track and signals to resolve this.”

David Higgins, chief executive of Network Rail, accepted the challenge to deliver a better service and said: “We are determined to do all we can to achieve that through balancing the continued growth in demand with passengers’ desire for improved reliability in terms of punctuality.”

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Image c. Passenger Focus


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