The Office for Rail and Road (ORR) has announced it has put Network Rail on a warning for its services in North West England and will now face further investigation by the regulator.
The regulator is responsible for holding Network Rail to account, which is considered responsible for train delays resulting from external factors, such as adverse weather and trespass. While nationally, causes of delays are broadly split evenly between train companies and Network Rail, Network Rail’s performance in terms of its contribution to delays remains a concern in the North West and Central regions.
Performance in this region deteriorated in 2018 and failed to recover during 2019. As a result, ORR will focus its investigation into the detail of Network Rail’s recently initiated recovery plan to test whether Network Rail is doing all it reasonably can to improve service for passengers in the North West.
John Larkinson, Chief Executive, Office of Rail and Road said:
The top priority for passengers is that their train arrives on time and that isn’t happening consistently enough across the country.
“ORR is responsible for looking at how Network Rail contributes to train delays and while there are areas of very good performance such as in Wales and Western region, Network Rail’s performance in North West and Central region is not good enough. That is why we are putting the company on a warning to make sure its improvement plans deliver for passengers.”
While ORR has limited powers for overseeing train operators, only the rail infrastructure, the regulator commented that TransPennine Express’ poor performance was largely due to train operations, rather than Network Rail.
A decision on whether Northern Rail should have its franchise removed is due to be made, and the North’s political leaders have called for the same action to be taken against TransPennine Express, with both operators among the worst performing in the country.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, ORR may choose to impose financial sanctions on Network Rail for its poor performance in the North West, which are funded through management bonuses to avoid any impact on the railways operations.