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Terrible train performance in CP5 so far – Network Rail promises action

Nearly all categories that cause train performance delays “worsened” during the first six periods of CP5, according to a report presented at Network Rail’s recent board meeting. 

Robin Gisby, the company’s outgoing managing director of network operations, presented the paper to the board revealing that specification/operational plan and reactionary delay had been the most impacted categories. 

He stated that the national picture was “severely impacted” by poor performance in the busy south east. Performance by the TOCs had also worsened with “on the best days” 50% of delays being caused by the TOCs, 50% by Network Rail. 

Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) data has revealed that PPM (public performance measure) and CaSL (cancellations and severe lateness targets) performance since the beginning of CP5 has been “well below” the targets specified in Performance Strategies for a significant number of operators. 

For instance, at the end of period seven, 13 out of 18 TOCs had not met their profiled PPM MAA (moving annual average) targets, the largest variances being Southern and Southeastern, who were 1.5 percentage points (pp) and 1.3pp short of target respectively. 

On top of this, Network Rail-caused PPM failures at the end of period seven accounted for 57.7% of the total PPM failures across England and Wales. This figure is 0.1pp worse than at the same point last year. 

Network Rail’s board stated that engaging the TOCs to improve reactionary delay was a “challenge” and was being tackled in numerous ways including via the National Task Force. But it was noted that the need to accelerate the Traffic Management Programme was a key to this. 

ORR added that it met Southern on 30 October to discuss the reasons behind its current poor performance. It said: “We note the impact that platform crowding resulting from the London Bridge redevelopment is having on performance. Network Rail and Southern have identified a number of schemes to recover performance which we will be monitoring closely in the coming months.” 

The regulator also raised the Southeastern performance issues with Network Rail and it has identified a series of initiatives that should recover performance, including actions to resolve “staff shortages at the London Bridge Delivery Unit” and to “remove temporary speed restrictions”. 

“We are monitoring the impact of these initiatives closely and we will escalate the matter within Network Rail if its plan does not appear to be having the anticipated impact,” the ORR stated. 

Richard Price, chief executive of the regulator, said: “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.” 

Network Rail’s board also stated that whilst improving the ability to deal with reactionary delay was important reducing primary delay was a key priority. However, it was said that there is difficulty in providing really granular data in this area – it being noted that the cause of sub threshold delay, (being delays of less than 3 minutes) was not capable of being captured. 

But Price said: “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.” 

During the recent board meeting, members did question whether the plans to deliver the various improvements were robust and did delivery of the outputs correlate to improved performance? It was confirmed that the executive were improving plan quality and were increasing the number of material milestones coming to the Executive for review. 

Gisby added that the plan to commission an independent industry review of worsening reactionary delay (0.5% PPM worse year to date) to provide a clear understanding of the impact of control, train crew and rolling stock resources was noted and approved. 

Following on from this, the ORR added “we expect to see evidence of the plan being adjusted appropriately in the light of this underperformance”. 

(Image: c. Alastair Grant/PA Images)

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