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ORR to grill Network Rail over CP5 missed targets

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is investigating Network Rail’s performance and its capability to deliver the massive CP5 enhancements programme, having missed 30 of its 84 milestones for 2014-15 and with many projects facing delays and rising costs

Renewals are also significantly behind schedule, especially overhead line (77% behind) and signalling (63% behind). Track renewals are 7% behind plan. 

Signalling renewals behind

The ORR recently launched a formal investigation into Network Rail’s enhancement delivery, and another into train performance, specifically for Southern and Govia Thameslink Railway, as well as Scotland. 

Network Rail is responsible for delivering more than £12bn of enhancements to the rail network such as new stations, electrification and bridges by 2019. Of the 30 missed milestones (full list at the bottom of the article), 16 of these were development milestones – meaning the scheme design is running behind plan. The remaining 14 were project completion milestones. Although many of these did not significantly impact Network Rail’s customers, ORR said there were notable occasions where the introduction of new and improved services was delayed.

The most prominent example was phase 2b of the North West Electrification project (Liverpool-Manchester, including Liverpool-Wigan) which missed the December 2014 completion date for the introduction of electric services. The infrastructure was not ready for authorisation until March 2015. 

Other missed milestones, such as Swindon resignalling and Reading to Didcot electrification, were communicated at short notice, the ORR added. 

The regulator said: “We reported in the last monitor that we have formerly escalated several concerns related to enhancement projects and Network Rail’s ability to deliver its regulated obligations. These concerns can be summarised as follows:

  • shortcomings in project design and development, including inadequate rigour in cost estimating;
  • late project delivery;
  • shortcomings in how Network Rail delivers its part in cross-industry programmes such as Great Western Route Modernisation; and
  • lack of evidence that Network Rail is managing the CP5 investment portfolio to achieve efficiencies.” 

Performance on the East Coast Main Line and freight sector has been good, however, overall punctuality of train service performance remains at 89.6% – 2.9 percentage points lower than the 92.5% target. 

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The latest six-monthly ORR Monitor shows declining operator satisfaction with Network Rail:

TOC satisfaction with NR

The Monitor notes: "For the first time since the survey was introduced the number of 'dissatisfied' or 'very dissatisfied' customers was greater than those satisfied (41%). This is a striking result given that satisfaction with train performance in fact increased by 4% compared with 2013."

Another problem is poor drainage. The ORR says: "There were many earthworks failures during the wet weather over the winter of 2013-14 and these were partly attributable to historic problems with drainage. We are still not satisfied that Network Rail is doing enough in this area and we issued an improvement notice on the 18 February 2015 covering the management of critical drainage system components."

However, one bright spot is the ORBIS project to vastly improve asset information quality and functionality. The Monitor says: "To date all milestones have been achieved on schedule, including for the signalling core data, which was completed in January."

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “Network Rail has made a slow start in delivering on its enhancements and performance targets for CP5 and we have asked it to demonstrate how it plans to get back on schedule to deliver on its commitments to 2019. 

“ORR is investigating Network Rail’s performance improvement plans and delivery of enhancements. This work will help identify the issues the company needs to address to improve train performance, increase capacity and deliver on its commitments to passengers.” 

Patrick Butcher, finance director at Network Rail, said that while progress is being made in improving performance, safety, asset reliability and delivering more renewals and projects, “our rate of acceleration in these areas isn’t yet where we want it to be”. 

“With more than a million more trains on the network than 10 years ago, there are inevitable challenges,” he said. “We are determined to do more to improve and action is being taken to quicken the pace of change.” 

David Sidebottom, passenger director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus (formerly Passenger Focus), said passengers tell his organisation that punctual trains are their main priority. 

“Passengers welcomed news that there would be investment in schemes to deliver on their priority areas for improvement,” he noted. “It is disappointing that these are behind schedule. It is now vital that Network Rail is even more focused on delivering a good passenger experience through times of disruption due to these works.” 

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP said: “I expect the regulator to hold Network Rail to account, performance must and should improve. The industry has to work together to address these failings and deliver for passengers and the economy: that needs to start now.” 

Following ORR’s investigation into project over-runs at Christmas, Network Rail has implemented new plans and recommendations for engineering works to minimise impact on passengers in time for engineering works planned over Christmas 2015. 

Missed Project Completion Milestones (GRIP 6 milestones) 

  • Package 7, 10 Car South West Suburban Railway - Reynes Park to Dorking
  • Motherwell Area Stabling - Phase 1
  • Barry - Cardiff Queen Street Corridor - Phase 2 - Valley Lines
  • Barry - Cardiff Queen Street Corridor - Phase 3 - Barry Lines
  • Strategic Freight Network (SFN) - Ipswich Yard
  • Chiltern Main Line Lengthening - Except High Wycombe DOWN platform
  • Rolling Programme of Electrification - Rutherglen and Coatbridge (R&C) Electrification
  • Barry - Cardiff Queen Street Corridor - Phase 4 - Cardiff East
  • Strategic Freight Network (SFN) - Peak Forest
  • North of England Programmes (LNW) - Phase 2 (c) - (NW Electrification Phase 2 Configuration State 3)
  • Belcombe to Copyhold Bi-directional Signalling Upgrade
  • North of England Programmes (LNW) - Phase 2 (a&b) - (NW Electrification Phase 2 Configuration State 3)
  • St Pancras - Sheffield Linespeed Improvements
  • Stations - Access for All (AfA) - New Cross Gate

 Missed Project Development Milestones (GRIP 3 milestones) 

  • Great Western Electrification - Maidenhead to Newbury, Oxford, Chippenham and Bristol Parkway
  • Great Western Electrification - Chippenham to Bristol Temple Meads
  • North of England Programmes (LNW) - Phase 4 - Manchester to Preston Electrification and Preston JTI - (NW Electrification Phase 4 - Configuration State 5)
  • Intercity Express Programme: Western Capability - Route wide (gauge capacity works all routes)
  • Oxford Corridor Capacity Improvements - Phase 1
  • London Victoria Station Capacity Improvements
  • Great Western Electrification - Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway to Cardiff
  • Acton (GWML) to Wilesden (WCML) Electrification (Acton West to Acton Wells)
  • Anglia Traction Power Supply Upgrade - GE bulk supply point & AT
  • Ely North Junction Capacity Improvement
  • North of England Programmes (LNW) - Phase 3 - Preston to Blackpool Electrification - (NW Electrification Phase 3 - Configuration State 5)
  • North of England Programmes (LNW) - Phase 5 - Guide Bridge to Stalybridge Jcn Electrification - (NW Electrification Phase 5 TPE West - Configuration State 7)
  • North of England Programmes (LNW) - Phase 5 - Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge Jcn Electrification and JTI - NW Electrification Phase 5 TPE West - Configuration State 5)
  • Northern Programme (Yorkshire) - Calder Valley
  • Oxford Corridor Capacity Improvements - Phase 1
  • Sussex Power Supply Upgrade

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