Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has approved Network Rail’s action plan, detailing how it will improve train performance for passengers and freight users, both immediately and in the longer term.
In a letter to Network Rail boss Andrew Haines, dated 28 November 2018, ORR chief executive John Larkinson stated that “performance across GB has continued to decline this year and some routes are currently experiencing the lowest levels of performance in this control period”.
He continued: “There is now sufficient evidence that point to weaknesses in Network Rail’s underlying performance management capability; which ORR considers must be addressed as a matter of urgency in advance of introducing the new regulatory framework for CP6.
“In particular, it appears to ORR that there are current systemic issues in relation to Network Rail’s approach and commitment to performance planning and its capability to recover service from incidents on the network (in conjunction with train operators).”
In its response to that letter, Network Rail considered the causes of the decline in performance, which it put down to:
- A gradual decline in the robustness of the timetable (the industry’s ultimate promise to the customer) and the resourcing plan that sits behind it;
- The increasing delay minutes per incident as capacity becomes more constrained;
- The erosion of operational competence, evidenced in the increases in reactionary delay and poor service recovery.
Network Rail then set out that it will work in collaboration with train operators to deliver a better service for passengers by:
- Establishing a new performance management system that will give it a clearer understanding of the factors causing delays,
- Improving its response to incidents and in the time taken to recover a normal service after disruption,
- Increasing its operational capability through additional staff training and recruitment.
Graham Richards, director planning and performance at ORR said: “We are pleased to see that Network Rail has reacted positively to our enforcement action and has a thorough plan to identify and tackle the root causes of the deterioration of punctuality.
“There must be no let-up in the drive to improve performance and we will be making sure Network Rail delivers on its promised steps aimed at improving performance for passengers and freight customers.”
The ORR has stated that it will closely monitor Network Rail’s planned improvements, with a particular focus on route specific actions.