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Network Rail could face £70m punctuality fine

It is expected that Network Rail could be fined about £70m for delays suffered by passengers, after it failed to meet its regulatory targets for punctuality during the 2009-2014 CP4 period, which ends today.

A spokesperson for Network Rail told the BBC that although the full punctuality statistics for the period were not yet available, the final figure was likely to be “just short of 90%”.

Official targets from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) say that 92.5% of trains should have arrived‘on time’ during CP4– meaning no more than ten minutes late for long-distance journeys and five minutes late for local and commuter services.

The ORR, which will publish its final assessment of Network Rail’s performance in June 2014, would not comment on the £70m fine figure reported by the BBC. But, if this fine is imposed it will dwarf the previous biggest fine of £14m,which was imposed on Network Rail in February 2008 after engineering work overran during the preceding Christmas and New Year period.

However, the fine could be lower if the ORR accepts that uncontrollable factors such as weather played a significant part in delays.

Ahead of entering CP5, a spokesperson for Network Rail told RTM: “Passengers are not currently experiencing the very high levels of train punctuality we had promised. While we have been successful in making our infrastructure more reliable, it hasn't been enough to offset the difficulties caused by excessive congestion or bouts of extreme weather.

“Missing our regulatory targets for punctuality is disappointing and our focus for the coming five year period is to restore record levels of performance and spend and invest some £38bn in our railways targeting the busiest parts of our network to relieve congestion and provide more trains, more seats and quicker, greener journeys.”

Looking ahead to Network Rail’s £38bn investment programme, David Sidebottom, Passenger Focus's acting chief executive stated that passengers“should ultimately see an improved rail service bringing the things they tell us they want: improved punctuality, reliable trains with more seats”.

Sidebottom concluded that punctuality should be a particular focus given the priority passengers give to it.

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