Network Rail needs to do more to stop heavy rain and snow devastating train timetables, says the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).
Punctuality on long-distance services has fallen to 88.3 per cent and London and South East services are down to 91.4 per cent, following months of challenging weather conditions.
A report published in December last year praised Network Rail for its strategy to improve punctuality on the network.
Despite criticising the infrastructure owner for some areas of “poor management” in recent m0nths, the ORR has praised Network Rail for its effective planning in Scotland, which allowed services to continue to run effectively during the harsh weather conditions.
Richard Price, ORR chief executive, said: “Passengers need to be able to rely on the railways to get them from ‘A to B’ throughout the whole year. However, Network Rail’s operational performance on parts of Britain’s rail network has been poor over recent months.
“ORR is concerned that the company is losing touch with key performance targets as passengers again suffered poor performance during challenging weather conditions.
“ORR will be reviewing whether the company can currently work and plan better, and the Governments’ proposed significant investment of £37.5 billion from 2014-19 will enable Network Rail to deliver a railway that can stand up to conditions like heavy rain and snow in the future.”
Under the order made by ORR earlier this year, if the company fails to deliver the 2013-14 punctuality target for long-distance services it faces a financial penalty that increases by £1.5 million per 0.1 percentage point it drops below 92 per cent.
Network Rail chief executive David Higgins said: “We recognise that this has been a difficult period for passengers, with disruption on many lines due to extreme weather.
“Our staff worked tirelessly, often in difficult circumstances, to get the railway back up and running and we would like to thank passengers and train operators for bearing with us during this time.”
“The damage that extreme weather can do to a Victorian rail network which was neither designed nor built for such challenges is clear. Whole lines were closed by flooding and tracks came close to being washed away by rivers which burst their banks. On the worst affected parts of the network, torrential rain caused up to 60 landslides in a single day.
“This has been a wake up call for the whole industry, which we ignore at our peril. As we set out when we launched our strategic business plan in January, we are playing catch up on decades of under-investment.”
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