Network Rail Scotland infrastructure enhancements praised by regulator
Network Rail Scotland has made good progress in its delivery of enhancements and freight performance but its passenger train service performance continues to be poor, according to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
In its final annual assessment of Network Rail Scotland for Control Period 5 (2014-19), published today, the rail and road regulator the transport body finished its CP5 enhancements delivery programme strongly, meeting a number of key milestones on or ahead of schedule.
One notable example was the delivery of the Shotts Electrification project, despite the collapse of its electrification contractor late into the project. Other successes include delivery of the Highland Mainline Phase 2 project, the Stirling-Dunblane-Alloa electrification, and sustained progress on the redevelopment at Glasgow Queen Street Station.
ORR’s Annual Monitor also shows that Network Rail’s performance in the rail freight sector remains strong. At the end of 2018-19, the freight performance measure for Scotland for on-time arrivals was 96.7%, 4.2 percentage points better than target.
Despite these successes, passengers in Scotland suffered a decline in train service performance. At the end of 2018-19, performance in Scotland was 5.1 percentage points below the punctuality target of 92.5%.
When it became clear last autumn that Network Rail was breaching its licence on passenger service train performance, ORR took the step of issuing an Order requiring the company, in conjunction with train operators, 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.
ORR’s Annual Monitor also highlights issues with Network Rail Scotland’s efficiency and renewals planning for Control Period 6. At the end of March 2019, it published concerns with these plans. In response, Network Rail Scotland has made some progress, but it needs to do more and intensify its focus.
Stephanie Tobyn, ORR director, Scotland, said: “Given the recent challenges faced by electrification projects across Great Britain, it is encouraging to see Network Rail Scotland perform well in its enhancements delivery programme. It also outperformed all of the routes in England and Wales on its asset management scorecard targets.
“However, there is an increase in time taken to recover from infrastructure incidents – something we have especially highlighted. This is a worrying trend as passengers are not seeing the benefit of Network Rail’s improving asset reliability.
“We are monitoring this issue closely in line with our new holding to account policy which focuses on routine monitoring and assessment, inter-route comparison and early resolution of concerns.
“Should Network Rail be unable to resolve these issues, our new enforcement policy includes an option to impose financial sanctions at route level against the management team responsible.”