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Regulator praises Network Rail CP6 engineering plans

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The office of Rail and Road (ORR) has praised Network Rail for having an “efficient” engineering works plan in place for CP6, running from 2019 to 2024.

As part of its half year ‘Network Rail Monitor’ review, the regulator said Network Rail was in a much “better position than it was at this point five years ago to deliver the volumes of work required and improve efficiency” over the upcoming control period.

Network Rail was also praised for securing “better access to the network for its engineering works” as well as recruiting “more maintenance staff”.

However, the ORR criticised Network Rail’s plans to make efficiency savings, saying they “are less advanced than they need to be and there is more to do in the four months before CP6 starts”. The report also slammed Network Rail for punctuality and reliability being at their lowest levels since the current five year control period began in 2014, with factors such as extreme weather and problems implementing the May 2018 timetable playing a part.

As a result the ORR has ordered Network Rail to:

  • Step up engagement and work with train operators to review and develop actions to address the underlying causes that have led to the findings identified in the relevant reviews (referred to above)
  • Deliver a report to ORR by 15 February 2019, detailing how it is identifying the common underlying issues relating to performance planning and its capability to recover service from incidents on its network. We also require the report to address how Network Rail is implementing the conclusions of its report
  • Provide ORR with subsequent and regular updates on progress in delivering its report. These updates may include any interim findings and representations regarding the extent to which it considers it is doing everything reasonably practicable to meet its obligations in Condition 1 in relation to its performance management capability

ORR chief executive John Larkinson said: “Today’s decision is a clear demonstration of ORR’s approach to how we will hold Network Rail to account.

“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.

“We need to act now, rather than wait for the end of the financial year, to ensure Network Rail is ready for the start of the next control period, CP6, on 1 April 2019.”

Earlier this week the ORR revealed it is overhauling the way it holds Network Rail to account. It comes after the regulator approved Network Rail’s £35bn spending plan for the next five years.

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