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

    Comment number 403.

    Nationalise the track, the stations and the signals. Open up the lines via open access sale of track slots. Train companies own trains and pay drivers. All else owned by a nationalised Network Rail.
    Why do we need post in public hands? It seems that many people just assume that it's good to have as many nationalised services as possible, but why?
    They weren't stolen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    The root problem is the separation of infrastructure and operations - and this exists because of political ideology and for no other reason.

    Prior to the 1990s, railways have NEVER successfully operated in this manner, whether publicly or privately owned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Nationalisation doesn't work.

    Privatisation doesn't work.

    So what's next?

    Oh, so 99% of us live in holes in the ground while the elite live in stately homes and visit each other by high speed train.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    Well the money can comefrom cancelling the HS2 project. It was always apparent to the most thick that the same money put into the present rail network wouldbe better value for money.

  • Comment number 399.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Bring back the LMS, LNER, GWR and SR and all will be well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    The main problem is until the TOCs (train operating companies) work properly with Network Rail, passengers will never get the service they deserve.
    1. TOCs are in it for the profit (except for East Coast)
    2. Network Rail is paid for by the taxpayer
    Frankly, far to many problems, not enough solutions! I say take away privatisation and maybe things will be better - and focus on passengers again!

  • Comment number 396.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    The number of passenger journeys has increased by 100% over the last 15 years. You cant introduce longer trains without lengthening platforms, not an easy task, it affects signalling. For commuter routes you cannot run more than 24 trains an hour safely, for mainlines at higher speeds thats 12 trains per hour. We need HS2 to provide extra capacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    A neighbour worked for network rail and went to work at 21:00 60 miles away and came back four hours later having according to him having done an hours work for 12 hours pay. This is part of the problem senior engineers not overseeing the job and inventing a report at home to get paid, having reported this to network rail with time dates place of work and employees name they weren't interested.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    It seems to be the height of folly for the strategic assets of the country to be in private hands. Profit motives will always leach needed money away from necessary investment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Whilst I support HS2 on current proposals as it would shave 40 mins off my daily commute, what infrastructure upgrade there is, is piecemeal and limited to replacing worn out rails with new ones along existing routes. There seems to be little thought as to how railways could serve communities better by increasing demand, reducing demand on roads. Clue: more carriages/trains at peak times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    This is an image problem!

    We need a marketing company to rebrand it (and HS2), that will do the trick!

  • Comment number 390.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Perhaps we should rip all the rails up and convert them to roads.
    What with this being the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    387.Steve Ingram
    Sorry you had a bad experience but what does that have to do with Network Rail? This HYS is about NR, they dont run passenger trains, they dont set fares, they dont decide how many carriages trains have or how many seats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    I last used a train about a year ago to go from Oxford to York. I found it over priced and didn't manage to get a seat on the way back. Absolutely no incentive to use it again at all. I will always use a car from now on and feel sorry for those who are forced to use this mode of transport to commute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Just googled Siemens and ATOS with regard to the Beeb, it makes railway delays seem a little bit insignificant. Oh i wish i was an MP on a committee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    382.Goves Silly Temper Tantrum
    It would be very easy and costless to renationalise the railways. The Infrastructure is currently owned by the government (Network Rail) so just let the Train Operators franchises to expire and take them in to not-for-profit government owned companys. No cost and a publicly owned rail service. The ORR already owns a lot of the rolling stock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Last week, yet again waiting on a platform for a train that was nearly 30 minutes late. Despite booking a seat, all were full and it was standing room only for the 1 hour and 10 minute journey.
    But this was still better than years ago when the system was nationalised. Sometimes the train didn't turn up at all, normally strike action! Both systems are rubbish... back to the car I suppose...


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