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Network Rail more reliable but must do better, says ORR

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THE OFFICE of Rail Regulation (ORR) last week praised Network Rail for its progress on reliability and punctuality but said it must increase its efficiency savings, drive down mechanical failures and re-write its business plan.

In its periodic review 2008, the ORR's director of competition and regulatory economics John Thomas, said that Network Rail had the opportunity to provide, 'enhanced safety at significantly reduced costs'.

For example, through prefabrication of rail sections for maintenance.

Such efficiencies will be essential if the track operator is forced to reduce its spending over control period 4 (2009-2014) as the ORR is recommending to ministers. Ministers will decide how much Network Rail should invest in the High-Level Output Study (HLOS) in July.

The ORR is advising that Network Rail should invest between £16.5bn and £19.2bn in England and Wales during the next five years and a further £1.95bn to £2.4bn in Scotland.

This is a considerable shortfall on current investment levels.

During control period 3 Network Rail is investing £20.8bn in England and Wales and £2.5bn in Scotland Published simultaneously, the ORR's review for quarter 3 2006-7 introduced a new policy on level crossings and called for highways authorities and local councils to be responsible for crossing safety.

It also said that punctuality had increased, as had the number of points failures.

See page 22 for Network Rail chief executive John Armitt's views on future spending plans

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