ORR’s annual assessment of Network Rail: Good on safety but network performance needs to improve

5 July 2016

Network Rail had a good year on safety in 2015-16. There has been good progress in improving its infrastructure, but this cost more than expected and has yet to deliver improvements in performance across the network as a whole.

This is the headline from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) who published its annual report on Network Rail’s performance today.

ORR's report highlights:

  • Safety: There has been good leadership of safety at Network Rail. There have been no worker fatalities or industry-caused passenger deaths on Network Rail’s infrastructure or stations. Network Rail recognises that there is no room for complacency. ORR inspections have found underlying issues such as safety rules and procedures not being followed consistently.
  • Network performance: Network Rail has made progress delivering its plan to improve network performance, putting in more reliable infrastructure such as new tracks, signals and overhead lines. These improvements have not yet translated into better performance for passengers. The company is working with train operators to turn around punctuality for passengers.
  • Engineering Work: Network Rail’s plan to improve management of engineering works has worked.  Easter 2016 saw some 15,000 people, at around 1,000 sites, successfully carrying out £50 million worth of engineering work, with 99% handed back on time.
  • Money: Network Rail spent more money than expected renewing and developing its infrastructure, and this inefficiency is putting pressure on its borrowing facility with Government. The company responded with an ‘enhancement improvement plan’, a review of major projects by Sir Peter Hendy, more scrutiny of spend at the route level, the deferral of work and is considering asset disposals. The Government has also increased its borrowing limit.

ORR’s chief executive Joanna Whittington said:

Britain's railways have seen sustained investment in recent years, supporting a further rise in passenger numbers.
Network Rail is making good progress on health and safety and its programme to improve asset reliability. However, while its track and signals are now more resilient, this cost more than expected and network performance has not improved.
Over the course of the next year, we need to see evidence that Network Rail’s initiatives are delivering financial efficiencies and noticeable performance improvements for passengers while achieving gains in health and safety.

Notes to editors

  1. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the UK’s rail regulator and strategic roads monitor for England. Follow us @railandroad.
  2. ORR protects the interests of rail and road users; improving the safety, value and performance of railways and roads, today and in the future.
  3. Network Rail has benefited from sustained levels of government investment, supporting a substantial increase of passenger numbers in recent years. The number of passenger journeys in Britain has more than doubled in the past twenty years, increasing to nearly 1.7 billion in the last year.
  4. For 2016-17, ORR will use Network Rail’s delivery of its route scorecards as key indicators of the company’s performance. The delivery of these locally agreed scorecards, which include financial performance, customer service and train punctuality, places the needs of passengers and freight customers at the heart of managing and operating the railway.
  5. ORR will be publishing detailed reports looking at the rail industry’s health and safety, and Network Rail’s finance and efficiency performance, later this summer.
  6. To read the full report, visit: https://orr.gov.uk/publications/reports/network-rail-monitor