The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has challenged Network Rail to improve its efficiency.
This comes after ORR published an annual report into the performance of the rail operator which has been described as mixed.
There are particular areas where Network Rail has thrived though; in 2016/17, no passenger fatalities were recorded, with the operator ensuring Britain’s reputation as having one of the safest railways in Europe continues thanks to the delivery of a safe network.
This is obviously of particular interest to ORR, who published a health and safety report about Britain’s railways last week. Within this, the need to remain vigilant was stressed.
Although ORR now acknowledge the processes in place to deliver improvement plans are in place, the report said “train performance continued to decline” in 2016-17.
Many of the delays recorded were attributed to Network Rail, whose percentage of trains arriving on time dropped to 87.4%, from the figure of 88.9% the year before.
Elsewhere, the operator met 13 of its 19 completion milestones for enhancing the railway, while core work is carried out 5% less efficiently than it was three years ago according to the report.
Part of the problem for the rail operator is the financial pressure faced; work has been deferred to the next five-year spending period in 2019-2024 in order to ensure the company remains in budget.
However, this creates its own set of problems, leaving little room for error or fluctuations and could affect future performance too.
Network Rail has, therefore, transformed its business, creating eight regional route businesses and a national system operator. For their part, ORR is altering its monitoring process of Network Rail to help increase the delivery of efficiency.
ORR’s Chief Executive, Joanna Whittington, commented on Network Rail’s performance and the next steps.
“Network Rail’s performance over 2016-17 has been mixed. The railway continued to be safe and the reliability of some assets has increased.
“However, these benefits have been overshadowed by continued inefficiency and poor train performance.
“We’re changing the way we regulate Network Rail to sharpen its focus on efficiency and performance.
“Network Rail must do its part and press on with its transformation programme, demonstrating that this will start to address inefficiency and meet performance expectations of passengers and freight customers now and into the spending period starting 2019.”