Regulator concerned about the resilience of Britain’s railways

20 February 2013

Network Rail must improve the resilience of Britain's railways in adverse weather conditions such as snow and heavy rain, said the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) today as it published its latest analysis of rail performance.

ORR's last analysis report, published in December 2012, highlighted that Network Rail had collaborated well with train operators in developing and implementing better plans for improving punctuality. However, in recent months performance has again deteriorated in parts of the country during a difficult winter.

ORR's latest analysis of rail performance highlights:

  • Strong performance in Scotland. Effective planning and coordination between Network Rail and train operators enabled the railways to withstand harsh weather conditions well.
  • Deteriorating performance on key parts of the rail network in England and Wales. Overall punctuality on long distance services was 88.3% and for London and South East services was 91.4%, well adrift of funded targets. Admirable flood recovery responses on parts of the network did help to ease passenger disruption.
  • Areas of poor management of the railways. Passengers suffered from some substantial over-runs of engineering works during the festive period. There were also several instances of basic operational planning mistakes causing delays.

Richard Price, ORR Chief Executive, said:

Passengers need to be able to rely on the railways to get them from 'A to B' throughout the whole year. However, Network Rail's operational performance on parts of Britain's rail network has been poor over recent months. ORR is concerned that the company is losing touch with key performance targets as passengers again suffered poor performance during challenging weather conditions.
We are absolutely determined to see the resilience of Britain's railways improve, especially in bad weather. The strong performance of the railways in Scotland - supported by excellent collaboration and planning between Network Rail and train operators - shows that our railways can deliver when conditions get tough, where it achieved nearly 92% punctuality in difficult weather with a complex network and varied geography.
ORR will be reviewing whether the company can currently work and plan better, and the Governments' proposed significant investment of £37.5bn from 2014-19 will enable Network Rail to deliver a railway that can stand up to conditions like heavy rain and snow in the future. The real prize is to achieve the punctuality that customers want and what Network Rail has been paid to deliver.

Network Rail has also fallen short of its 92% long distance punctuality target that it has been funded to deliver by 2013-14. Under the order made by ORR earlier this year, if the company fails to deliver the 2013-14 target it faces a substantial financial penalty. The size of any financial penalty will reflect the extent of Network Rail's failure to meet the commitment, increasing by £1.5 million per 0.1 percentage point it drops below the 92% punctuality target. ORR is also now assessing whether Network Rail has done all it can to improve performance on London and South East services.

Notes to editors

  1. The Office of Rail Regulation is the independent safety and economic regulator for Great Britain's railways.
  2. Passengers suffered from some substantial overruns of engineering works during the festive period such as possession overruns during the festive period especially on the Western route and services to Kent.
  3. Punctuality targets are measured on a public performance measure basis (PPM). PPM is a measure of the percentage of trains arriving at their final destination within ten minutes of the advertised time for long distance trains, and within five minutes for London and South East trains.
  4. Read the latest report on Network Rail performance in England, Scotland and Wales.
  5. Provision is made for the penalty to be reduced if Network Rail can demonstrate it has done everything reasonably practicable to meet its target. Any financial penalty, dictated by the extent of Network Rail's failure to meet its long distance commitment, will be payable in or after April 2014.
  6. ORR is currently scrutinising Network Rail's Strategic Business Plan for the railways from 2014-2019.