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NR acknowledges ‘tough year’ as it struggles to meet targets

Network Rail’s annual report shows that the infrastructure owner has failed to meet a number of key targets and is still facing financial challenges.

The report shows that total PPM for UK trains in 2015-16 was 89.1%, the worst in a decade and below Network Rail’s target of 90%, and cancellation and significant lateness was at 3.1%, above the target of 2.8%.

Similarly, Network Rail’s net financial performance was £149m lower than planned, mainly due to higher renewals costs across signalling, track and civils projects; lower than planned efficiencies in network operations; and higher compensation to operators following bad weather. Similarly, the financial performance in delivering enhancements was £210m lower than planned, largely due to delays in the Great Western electrification programme.

Network Rail’s net debt now stands at £41.6bn. It is currently consulting on selling off assets such as major stations, depots and electrical power assets to balance its finances.

In his introduction to the report, Network Rail CEO Mark Carne said: “It has been a tough year for the rail industry – the year of reviews – but we can also look back at the last 12 months and take pride in many achievements.

“We have carried more passengers than ever before, we have increased the reliability of our infrastructure assets, we have successfully delivered our biggest ever programme of bank holiday works and we are investing £100m every single week on improvements for passengers as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.”

He said many of the delays, including major closures on five lines, were caused by a winter of bad weather, and that Network Rail would need to “improve the ‘future proofing’ of the nation’s rail assets” to meet increased pressures on the rail network due to climate change.

Route devolution to go ahead

He also said Network Rail would need to increase the capacity of the railway, through projects such as the Rail Upgrade Plan, Crossrail and Thameslink, as well as improving accountability through greater route-based devolution, as recommended in the Shaw Report.

He said that from 2016-17, Network Rail will have route-based performance scorecards, before introducing separate regulatory settlements for each route by the start of CP6.

However, Carne added that route devolution would take place “within the context of a national framework and standards”.

He also said that Network Rail would increasingly seek private funding for major projects, saying: “We cannot just rely on central and local government being able to continue to provide the capital investment needed.”

Sir Peter Hendy, the chair of Network Rail, also said in his keynote speech at this year’s Infrarail that rail upgrades should be funded by the private sector.

Poor satisfaction scores from TOCs and passengers

The report also showed poor satisfaction from key Network Rail partners, with TOC customer satisfaction scored at 3.05, below the scorecard minimum of 3.15 and the target of 3.32.

Passenger satisfaction was at 81.5%, above the scorecard minimum of 81.0% but below the target of 83.3%. Lineside neighbour satisfaction was at 51%, below the scorecard minimum of 52%.

However, there were some successes. Network Rail had achieved nine out of 10 infrastructure project renewal and enhancement milestones, and 81% of delivery plan enhancement milestones. It also reached its target of 100% asset renewals.

It also had a strong safety performance, with time lost to worker injuries reduced by 10%, and 140,000 close calls reported as part of a drive to improve close reporting.

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