Rail passengers facing 'unnecessary delays'

 
Network Rail sign Poor drainage from tracks can cause mudslides and signal problems that delay trains

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Train passengers are facing unnecessary delays because Network Rail is not doing its job properly, according to a critical report from the regulator.

The Office of Rail Regulation said the infrastructure company was slipping behind on maintenance and had not done enough to prepare for bad weather.

It comes as commuters face more above-inflation fare rises in the new year.

Network Rail said train performance was still at historically high levels but accepted it could improve.

Punctuality targets

Rail Minister Norman Baker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that while Network Rail was "delivering upgrades and new infrastructure well", it had taken its "eye off the ball" when it comes to day-to-day maintenance of the network

Mr Baker discussed the report when he met Network Rail's boss on Wednesday and company representatives on Thursday.

Network Rail is in charge of the transport system's infrastructure including tracks and signals.

Drainage is a major issue on the railways because heavy rain can cause havoc, triggering mudslides and signal problems that delay trains.

The report from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said Network Rail was not doing enough to drain water away from tracks, which would help more services run on time.

The rail regulator also talked about a backlog of maintenance.

The ORR claimed the company did not know enough about the condition of its own track, bridges and signals.

As a result key punctuality targets were being missed, it said, which could soon land Network Rail with a multi-million pound fine.

ORR chief executive Richard Price said the company must deal with these problems as a matter of urgency.

'Investing heavily'

"Network Rail has been entrusted with large amounts of public and passengers' money which, if invested well, should deliver the levels of efficiency and punctuality it promised to deliver," he said.

"However, the company is falling short of expectations at the moment. It is facing many problems of its own making having failed to deliver plans to renew Britain's rail network, with delayed works now affecting performance.

"The company must urgently catch up and address the problems which are causing disruption to passengers and target its work as efficiently as possible."

The report examined what Network Rail delivered from the money it spent, as passengers face fare increases of about 4.1% in the coming months.

Mr Baker said he raised his concerns with Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins when they met earlier this week.

The minister said: "I am, as I think the rest of the travelling public will be, dismayed to learn that Network Rail is still failing to tackle deterioration in the punctuality and reliability of the network - a matter I have regularly raised with them.

"Fare payers and tax payers are investing heavily in the future of the railways and they need to have the confidence that Network Rail is maximising the impact every pound has."

Mr Baker later told the Today programme that "because you've got twice the number of passengers over the last 15 years on the same network, inevitably that's putting enormous pressure on Network Rail."

He said it is "one of the reasons" infrastructure projects like HS2 are needed.

Last week it was announced that former oil executive Mark Carne would replace Sir David at Network Rail when he steps down next year.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 343.

    Its not just network rail it is the operators aswell. but the problem is there should be no problems full stop.if problems were identified and sorted out straight away instead of leaving them for months and months half the problems wouldnt get worse or more expensive. NLW a train drivers job is a damn site harder than a bus drivers.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 342.

    338.Charles Jurcich
    No the key problem was that when it was privatised (Railtrack) the profit motive made them cut corners, like using sub-standard steel in the tracks which then causes accidents.

    And you don't think the same corners would have been cut due to funding restrictions if in the public sector? The public purse isn't a bottomless pit as the left would like to think.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 341.

    The Government considers that Network Rail should cost as much to run as European conterparts in as short a time as possible, but I believe this is an unsustainable goal. Britain's rail network went through decades where it lacked the political support needed to fund improvements; the industry contracted and key assets were and still are retained well past the point of becoming life expired

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 340.

    Seriously - train driver has to be the simplest job in the world. I mean a bus driver, he works in two dimensions and has conflicting traffic coming from all over the shop and a pilot, he operates in 3 dimensions but a drain driver only has one dimension to worry about.

    And (normally) only one direction too. FORWARD or STOP.

    EASY.
    --------------------

    you have no idea!! its not easy!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 339.

    Network Rail, like other organisations that have activities that are weather dependent, are advised by The Met Office predictions and use that information to plan work schedules. Unfortunately, many of the weather predictions have been somewhat inaccurate and that means planned work misses the weather 'window' needed so causing more delays.
    Improve the predictions to get work completed in time.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 338.

    226 therealist
    "The key problem as I see it is that these organisations still have the legacy of the public sector culture of waste, buraucracy and inefficiency with a high level of union involvement."

    No the key problem was that when it was privatised (Railtrack) the profit motive made them cut corners, like using sub-standard steel in the tracks which then causes accidents.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 337.

    Network Rail's task of maintaining Britain's rail infrastructure on an ever reducing budget is made all the more challenging by the age and sheer variety of assets which they must maintain - a legacy left behind from decades of previous governments' short sighted reluctance to invest in improvements which would have been able to 'engineer out' or significantly lessen many of today’s problems.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 336.

    330.Billythefirst
    324. Davey Trasker
    Since when does something being government run mean that its better?
    ------
    Well, the assumption always was, that private sector would be more efficient
    ------
    The key problem as I see it is that these organisations still have the legacy of the public sector culture of waste, buraucracy and inefficiency with a high level of union involvement.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 335.

    327.
    essiritussantos

    'biased'? I haven't expressed any opinion comparing privatised and nationalised. All I've said is that the railways aren't always the worst option and weren't perfect in the past either.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 334.

    HS/2 will bring the AVERAGE journey time in the Uk down. And that's what counts for westminster speeches, right ?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 333.

    Renationalize the railways, Abandon the governmental pet project of HS2, reinvest in connecting those out of the way places back onto the rail network after Beecham systematically destroyed it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 332.

    Torys are just laying the PR ground work for privatisation of NR.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 331.

    Network Rail is facing the growing pains of an industry that has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of train journeys over the last decade. It has seen much more growth than other industries such as the energy sector and yet is expected to operate on less and less money each year. Surely a growth industry requires more funding, not less, in order to keep up with rising demand?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 330.

    324. Davey Trasker
    Since when does something being government run mean that its better?
    ------
    Well, the assumption always was, that private sector would be more efficient.....but then things got, ...errmm privatised.
    Way above inflation price hikes, highest fares in Europe, and private sector swindling is the manifestation of that "efficiency" - so no good for customers and ditto tax payers.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 329.

    198.go figure:
    "I will vote for any party that renationalises our stolen industries."

    If I trusted any politician to keep a promise I would second that wholeheartedly. Problem is they sold most to foreigners - no hope.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 328.

    I read this week a report by an operating company of NR's long term plans in one region. It i seemed as complex as the famous US Power Point diagram of how (not) to wage a war in Afghanistan. The number of instances where sectional profit making or cost avoidance seemed to lead to less value overall were far too many. Users are paying for though the 'tax' on their rail fares.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 327.

    Hilaryj
    i am only pointing out that your being biased,privatised rail is no better than the old nationalized one,yet all over the world nationalized railways produce great cheap rail,they are not deliberately starved of investment to make them look bad,so mutineers can cash in on cheap assets
    It is economic subsidizing madness to have social investment for private profit
    Royal Mail included

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 326.

    "Lets go the whole hog now and make them fully driverless just like the DLR."

    Ever caught the DLR? Its a disaster. Driver aids - yes. no driver at all - no ta

    Privatisation of rail - huge subsidies, huge fares - both far higher than in BR days - far far more complexity & civil servants - for a less reliable service and the destruction of the UK rail engineering industry

    Trebles all round!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 325.

    Govt should provide higher subsidies to Network Rail.

    Good for the environment, good for inflation, and cheaper in the long run because private money costs more than public money.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 324.

    Since when does something being government run mean that its better? Post Office / NHS / Royal Mail are all nationalised (at the moment), are you saying thats the quality, service and costs you want from railtrack? I think we've already got that.'

    You missed out the BBC - the shining example of why nothing should be renationalised - ever.

 

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