Network Rail told to cut disruption
Aug 28 2008 By Peter Woodman, PA Transport Correspondent
Rail regulators have set Network Rail (NR) a target of reducing disruption to passengers from engineering work by more than a third over the next five years.
The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said disruption must be cut by 17% within three years and by 37% within five years.
It also told NR that it had to implement a programme of improvements to the way it manages engineering work to reduce unplanned disruption when work overruns.
It was three engineering overruns at the new year that caused travel chaos and led to ORR fining NR a record £14 million.
One of the overruns was on the West Coast Main Line, which runs between London and Scotland, where continuing engineering work has led to service disruptions on most weekends this summer.
ORR said today that NR was missing its performance targets on the other main London to Scotland route - the East Coast Main Line.
The ORR also welcomed the previously-published train company performance figures which showed that 90.1% of trains ran on time in the period April-June this year - the best level for more than 10 years.
ORR chief executive Bill Emery said today: "The latest figures are excellent news for most passengers. However, the regular closure of parts of the network for engineering work causes substantial disruption and inconvenience to many passengers and freight customers, as well as deterring others from using the network altogether.
"For rail to make its full contribution to our economy, it is important that this disruption is reduced significantly. We have been taking steps to ensure this happens."
He went on: "Over the next five years NR must continue to carry out a full schedule of maintenance and renewal of the infrastructure, together with a massive programme of enhancements to increase network capacity.
"But work by NR and train operators has shown that it should be possible both to achieve increased efficiency and to reduce disruption to train services by adopting best practice and exploiting technological advances.
"We expect the railway to be kept open for business for as much time as is possible, and we propose to set NR a target to reduce disruption to passengers by 17% within three years and 37% within five years."
NR will now implement a programme of improvements to the way it manages engineering work, involving:
- Better risk management before projects begin;
- Better contingency planning, with train operators, to minimise the impact of any unavoidable delay to the resumption of full services;
- Stronger on-site management to ensure that any problems which do arise are identified quickly and tackled effectively;
- Better communication with train operators and rail users throughout.