ORR's half-year assessment of Network Rail

24 November 2016

The Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) half-year assessment of Network Rail, published today, identifies steady performance in its overall management of safety and of its assets and an improving picture of delivery against its updated enhancements programme. Significant challenges remain in the delivery of network and financial performance.

Key findings of ORR’s half-year assessment of Network Rail’s performance in England, Wales and Scotland:

  • Safety: Overall performance in health and safety across the rail network is good, though there are clear areas for improvement. Our inspections found Network Rail needs to do more to ensure compliance with its rules and standards. In addition, the company must fully implement its initiatives designed to improve worker health or the control of risk safety.
  • Network performance: Performance across the country has been mixed but has generally been poor with delays attributed to Network Rail worse than target in England, Wales and Scotland. An important area of focus for Network Rail is the time taken to recover from disruption and the company has identified this as a key improvement area. In Scotland, the Alliance (Network Rail and ScotRail) has published a robust performance improvement plan.
  • Assets: Following Network Rail’s updated renewals plans, it is generally ahead of target, though replacement of plain line track is behind planned levels. As part of the updated plans, some renewals work will be deferred to the next control period (2019-2024), and this will need to be taken account of in its future plans.
  • Developing the network: Network Rail has made good progress recently on its Enhancements Improvement Plan and electrification of the Great Western Line. The company has achieved 7 of its 8 project delivery milestones in the last six months, but is likely to miss its next delivery target for electrification of the line between Edinburgh to Glasgow.
  • Money: Network Rail is forecasting underperformance against its budget. It also has limited financial headroom in its loan facility.

ORR’s chief executive Joanna Whittington said:

At the half way point in this five year funding period, our analysis shows that Network Rail has made progress on key areas including safety and asset management.

More still needs to be done to tackle problems with performance so that the impact on passenger delays is reduced and to ensure that financial underperformance does not contribute to operational challenges in future.

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. To read the full report, visit: https://orr.gov.uk/what-and-how-we-regulate/regulation-of-network-rail/monitoring-performance/network-rail-monitor