Network Rail is failing passengers, says report

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Network Rail is failing passengers, says a new report
Network Rail is failing passengers, says a new report

Network Rail, the company responsible for Britain's railway network, has failed to deliver plans to renew the network, despite being entrusted with billions in public funds, says a new report.

The Office of Rail Regulation says that the company has caused unnecessary delays for passengers.

It now faces the threat of a £75 million fine over the huge rise in delays.

The company has "taken its eye off the ball" of day-to-day maintenance of the system, the Government's rail minister has said, according to thePress Association.

Failures in the firm's drainage and embankment systems have increased tenfold during the past two years, the ORR said. It found the company paid "inadequate attention" to this area which hampered preparation for adverse winter conditions.

Its annual assessment of Network Rail's performance also showed a backlog of maintenance work and found improvements in efficiency have slowed down.

Rail Minister Norman Baker said he wanted Network Rail to co-ordinate more closely with the train companies which run services, but ruled out reorganisation of the system to create "vertically integrated" companies responsible for both trains and tracks in the different regions of the country.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the company had been "delivering quite well" on the Government's £37 billion infrastructure investment programme, which he described as the biggest since Victorian times.

But he added: " They've taken their eye off the ball (on) the day-to-day maintenance of the network, which is leading to an increased number of overruns on engineering works and unnecessary delays for passengers as a consequence of minor failures in the network.

"The Rail Regulator has set out very clearly their concerns. They can require Network Railto adjust their programme, and that's what they are doing."

Mr Baker said that a pilot was under way in the Wessex area to trial greater co-ordination between Network Rail and the regional railway operator.

But asked whether this could lead to a move towards "vertical integration" of the system, Mr Baker said: "We're very keen to have much greater co-ordination between Network Rail and the train companies, and that's got to be good for the passenger and that's what's happening now.

"Integration but not reorganisation because what we don't want to do at a time of massive investment is to throw all the pieces up in the air and see where they land. We've got to concentrate on delivering a massive investment programme - £37 billion in the next five years we are spending as a Government on the existing railway, to do with the massive increase in passenger numbers. We don't want to divert that attention to reorganisations."