Network Rail must focus on train performance and productivity
Following periods of underperformance, the ORR’s annual assessment of Network Rail highlights the need for continued focus on train performance and efficiency throughout the organisation.
Making its final annual assessment of Network Rail for Control Period 5 (2014-19), ORR’s Network Rail Monitor highlights a mixed picture: Good performance by the company in managing its infrastructure assets and for the freight sector, but continued underperformance in the key areas of passenger train performance and efficiency.
When it became clear in autumn 2018 that Network Rail was breaching its licence on performance, ORR took the step of issuing an Order requiring the company to immediately identify and address issues on train performance and service recovery.
Network Rail replied positively and submitted a thorough response detailing how it was tackling the systemic issues and establishing a stronger grip on how train performance is planned, monitored and delivered. Importantly, Network Rail is doing this alongside seeking wider changes to the whole industry approach to performance.
ORR’s Monitor also shows that Network Rail overspent against its internal budget in every year of CP5. This was due to declining efficiency, higher payments to train companies as compensation for poor train performance, and overspend on enhancement projects, but remained within its overall funding envelope.
ORR has challenged the company on efficiency throughout the year and recently wrote to it detailing concerns about its efficiency plans for CP6. Network Rail’s routes are showing progress in their renewals and efficiency planning for 2019/20 but need to do more and the company needs to intensify its focus.
In 2018/19, Network Rail’s performance remained strong for the freight sector, with delays dropping from 12.1 to 11.6 minutes per 100 train kilometres and on-time arrivals reaching 94%. Infrastructure reliability also improved in the past 12 months; this has been generally positive throughout CP5 compared to the previous control period.
Graham Richards, ORR Director, Planning and Performance, said: “Network Rail’s performance in the past 12 months mirrored the previous years of CP5. On the key areas of passenger train performance and efficiency we have been challenging Network Rail throughout the year and have seen some positive action. There needs to be a continued focus for this improvement to be sustained.
“There were over 1.7 billion rail passenger journeys in Britain during 2018/19, each relying on both Network Rail and train operators getting things right. The new control period which started in April offers a fresh start, and our enhanced monitoring and where appropriate enforcement, is designed to identify issues earlier. We have also changed our approach to monitoring each of Network Rail’s Regions, which will feature more prominently in future publications.”