Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Government rail demands affordable, say ORR

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) today said the outputs the government expected Network Rail to meet between 2009 and 2014 are affordable, although Network Rail responded with 'concern' over funds.

The ORR want Network Rail to reduce operating, maintenance and renewals costs by 21% by 2014. It judges that Network Rail will need £26.5bn in income over the period to deliver significant improvements in reliability, capacity and safety.

ORR chief executive Bill Emery said: "Britain's railway network has seen impressive growth over the last few years, and has achieved significant improvements in performance and efficiency. There are major opportunities to build on this progress over the next five years; and for Network Rail, working with its industry partners, to deliver much more for passengers and freight customers for less money.

"Our draft determinations are the result of three years hard work across the industry. We have carefully reviewed Network Rail's plans, and produced determinations that are challenging and achievable. We have carried out detailed studies that have produced strong evidence to show that the company can make significantly greater efficiency improvements than it has assumed in its plan.

"The scale and pace of change will require Network Rail to strengthen its capabilities, look to introduce new technologies and ways of working, and develop more effective partnerships with its direct customers and suppliers. These improvements are all consistent with Network Rail's own vision of becoming a world-class company, and providing a better deal for passengers, freight customers and taxpayers.

"We will monitor Network Rail's progress in delivering all of its obligations and the improvements required. We look forward to reporting on its success. However, if it is failing or appears likely to fail, we will not hesitate to take action to require the company to address its shortcomings."

Network Rail claim that the efficiencies the ORR expect are achieveable but unaffordable, and has asked for the ORR to reduce its demands.

"ORR has collected strong evidence that there is significant potential for Network Rail to improve its efficiency by more than the company proposes. ORR expects Network Rail to reduce its operating, maintenance and renewals costs by 21% during 2009-14, compared with the 13% improvement the company has proposed," reads an ORR statement.

Network Rail's chief executive Iain Coucher responded: "Demand for more and better rail services continues to grow. It is vitally important that we get the right level of funding to meet passenger and freight user needs, so that we can deliver the railway that this country needs into the next decade.

"On the face of it, the proposed funding settlement is insufficient. I am extremely concerned that the funding settlement outlined today will put our plans to meet rising demand at risk.

"In the coming months, Network Rail will use everything in its power to secure the funding necessary to build a bigger and better railway. Passengers and freight users would expect nothing less."

ORR is also consulting on changes to Network Rail's network licence, aimed at clarifying the company's obligations and strengthening its accountability.

It expects Network Rail to boost reliability to 92.6% across England & Wales and at least 92% in Scotland by 2014, from 90.6% across the network in 2008-09. In England &Wales the number of passenger trains that are significantly late or cancelled must improve by between 21% and 36%. Delays caused to freight trains by Network Rail must reduce by more than 25% compared to 2008-09 levels.

Schemes to achieve greater capacity will include:

- Thameslink, including the removal of the track bottleneck at London Bridge;
- Rebuilding Reading station and removing the track bottleneck in the area;
- Rebuilding Birmingham New Street station;
- Improving capacity in Cardiff;
- Improving the line speed of the Midland Main line;
- Providing capacity relief to the east coast Main Line through development of the line from Peterborough to Doncaster.

Scottish schemes include:

- New Glasgow Airport Rail Link;
- New Airdrie to Bathgate line
- Smaller schemes including more than 500 platform extensions to accommodate longer trains, double the current enhancement programme.

The ORR also expects a 3% reduction in the risk of death or injury to passengers and rail workers, and reduced levels of disruption to freight and passengers.

The Network Rail monitor for quarter 4 of 2007-08 was also published today.

For the second quarter in a row train punctuality hit a ten-year high (89.9% MAA), and Network Rail achieved its lowest annual total in eight years for infrastructure failures that led to delays.

However, performance on Network Rail's Western route remained poor throughout the year, with delays caused by Network Rail being a significant factor. A joint performance improvement plan has been agreed for the year 2008-09.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.