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Network Rail already £40m over its yearly budget

Network Rail is currently £40m over its annual budget and forecasts to be around £112m over by the end of the fiscal year, according to new figures.

The figures were revealed by the owner of Britain’s railways when it released its first performance report for the year, and the first report of CP5, covering April to September.

A substantial portion of the overspend was spent on extra investment in train performance and safety initiatives, according to Network Rail.

The report also found that passenger train performance is behind plan and the industry is currently around 1% behind its year-end target of 91.1%. Network Rail says “there are clear improvement strategies in place but these will take time to have an impact on Britain's Network, which is seeing continued growth in passenger numbers”.

As RTM previously reported Network Rail earlier released figures that showed the number of trains that ran on time nationally between October and November fell to 84.6% compared to 86.2% for the same period in 2013.

The Office of Rail Regulation has also released its latest report on the performance of Network Rail from April to October.

The report highlights that train service performance is generally below expectations. The regulator’s evidence also suggests that the quality of data that Network Rail relies upon to plan and manage works on Britain’s railways is currently unreliable in places, and that this may be hindering its efforts to meet its funded targets. 

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The ORR is critical that Network Rail reported delivering less work than it planned to do, in both maintaining and renewing the network. The report says there is a lack of reliable data on bridges, structures and earthworks as well as volumes of work being delivered. This is having an adverse impact on Network Rail’s ability to work effectively.

It also says that Network Rail has not made the expected progress in the early stages of certain enhancement projects – such as the strategic freight network at Ipswich Yard; and phase 2 of Barry to Cardiff Queen Street corridor – raising questions regarding its ability to deliver the ambitious enhancements programme. ORR has asked Network Rail to produce an improvement plan to demonstrate how it will make up for the delays.

On a positive note the ORR found that Network Rail has made good progress in reducing safety risk at level crossings at the end of the financial year by 10%.

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “At ORR we have changed our approach to regulating train punctuality and the performance of the network – focusing on the indicators that will tell us more about Network Rail’s likely performance trajectory. This enables us to predict whether Network Rail’s work in the coming months will put matters right for passengers. This is vital as too many people are facing too many delays. It is the biggest source of dissatisfaction with the railways, and the industry needs to tackle the problem.  

“ORR is also concerned about the reliability of some of the information Network Rail depends upon to take decisions about how to achieve and sustain the high levels of punctuality and financial performance. Network Rail has made progress in some of these areas, but not in all of them. Without up-to-date knowledge, Network Rail will not have sufficient understanding of how and why its assets fail and its maintenance approach will remain reactive – leading to inefficiencies and hindering its efforts to improve punctuality. The new management at the company has made it clear that it shares our concerns and has committed to address these issues.”

Commenting on both reviews Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The railway continues to see strong growth in passenger numbers, however, we know that there are too many passengers that do not get the level of reliability they have a right to expect and that this has a real impact on their daily lives.

“Increasing capacity on a complex network, at the same time as keeping it running every day, is the challenge we face. We have clear strategies to deliver the improvements required.”

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