A regulator is taking formal action against Network Rail in relation to its poor performance.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has ordered the Government-owned company to improve its management of Britain’s rail infrastructure.
Punctuality and reliability are at the lowest levels since 2014, the ORR said, with extreme weather and problems implementing the May 2018 timetable among the causes.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines admitted train performance “has not been what our passengers deserve”.
He added: “We have let them down and we take responsibility for the part we have played in poor train service reliability.”
Recent reviews highlighted weaknesses with Network Rail’s planning and its capability to recover services following incidents.
ORR chief executive John Larkinson said: “Passengers and freight customers rely on Network Rail for punctual and reliable train services and the evidence we have collected suggests to us that Network Rail is failing to take all reasonable steps to effectively manage performance and recover from incidents on its network.
“This is a capability issue which must be addressed urgently.”
The ORR has issued a Provisional Order which requires Network Rail and its route managing directors to take a number of steps, including:
– More engagement with train operators to develop ways of improving performance.
– Deliver a report to the ORR by February 15 which identifies underlying issues and plans to resolve them.
– Provide the ORR with regular progress updates.
The ORR also found Network Rail is in a better position to “deliver efficiently” in the next five-year funding period – known as CP6 – which starts in April 2019, compared with this point five years ago.
The company has made progress in some areas but its plans to make efficiency savings are “less advanced than they need to be and there is more to do” before CP6 begins, according to the regulator.
Mr Haines said: “Network Rail is fully committed to leading the industry back to higher levels of performance, both through our own measures and actions and by working closely with our industry partners.”
One of the roles of the ORR is to hold Network Rail to account under the terms of its licence.
A spokesman for the regulator said if Network Rail fails to act on its demands then a fine can be imposed and the company could be liable to legal action “from an aggrieved party”.