Latest Rail News

10.06.13

Network Rail ‘breaching contract’ with Virgin

Virgin Rail is accusing Network Rail of having “consistently failed to deliver what it is contracted to deliver” and says its level of poor performance could amount to breach of contract.

The operator wants any penalties imposed by ORR for poor performance to be made up by Network Rail in the form of improvements for passengers, not fines that go straight to the Treasury.

Problems with infrastructure on the West Coast Main Line have deterred some passengers from travelling, Virgin Rail said, damaging its business. Network Rail has missed targets agreed with Virgin over the last two years, with the latest punctuality figures at 85.7%, short of the 88% target.

Over 70% of delays are a result of infrastructure issues, Virgin stated, with fewer than 15% of delays being the operator’s fault.

Tony Collins, chief executive officer of Virgin Rail, 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 Virgin Rail Group in having money leave the industry.

“Providing world class customer service is the vision of Virgin Trains. We have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on a fleet of reliable trains and we pay Network Rail nearly £200m a year to maintain the West Coast Mainline for us.

“We feel that we are not getting value for money in this respect and our customers have been let down and deserve more consistency. We have made our case strongly over many years to Network Rail, ORR and Government. But reluctantly we have taken this difficult decision on behalf of our customers.”

Network Rail said it is working closely with Virgin to fix infrastructure problems on the WCML. Virgin’s chief operating officer Chris Gibb was seconded to Network Rail for five months last year to work on these issues.

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