Network Rail fined a record £53m after missing punctuality targetsJul 08, 2014
The organisation that runs the UK’s rail infrastructure has been ordered to pay a record fine of more than £53 million by the rail regulator for "shortfalls in performance".
The ORR said Network Rail had fallen "significantly short" of punctuality targets, although there have been “significant” successes in its rail improvement programme
Network Rail, whose national centre is next to Milton Keynes Central station, said punctuality had suffered from running more services to meet higher demand.
Chief executive Mark Carne said less crowded trains were a key priority for passengers but providing more trains to ease congestion led to more delays.
He added: “This is a time of unprecedented growth and record levels of investment in Britain’s railways. As a result, today we have the safest, most improved passenger railway in Europe.
“We accept that we have fallen short of the regulatory targets for train punctuality and that this is, in part, down to our failure to reduce infrastructure faults quickly enough.
"At the same time, the sharp increase in passenger demand has led us to run more trains at peak times, even when we know this will lead to a more congested railway and that punctuality may suffer.”
Almost 87% of Network Rail’s trains ran on time in 2013-14, against a target of 92%.
Mr Carne said: “Passengers do want trains to run on time but, for many of them, the more pressing priority is increased services with less crowding. The trade-off between congestion and punctuality is something we face every day.
“The industry is now benefitting from significant funding but there remain challenges following many decades of under-investment.
"Getting train reliability back on track is a key priority for us over the next three years in particular and we have good plans to improve the underlying reliability of our assets alongside significant investment to increase capacity and relieve congestion.
“I am confident that by the end of this control period we will meet and indeed exceed the regulatory performance targets.”
Among the immediate improvements will be better mobile broadband internet access on the rail network.
Mr Carne said: “The increasing availability of mobile broadband on trains will mean rail travel is an even more attractive option for many people as they can make better productive use of their journey time.
“We welcome the announcement today of the additional funds to roll this out across the network more quickly.”
The ORR highlighted successes for Network Rail, including the modernisation of major stations such as Kings Cross and Reading. Safety at level crossings has also improved.
The UK rail network carried 1.5 billion passengers in 2013-14, an increase of 0.3 billion since 2008.