Network Rail misses targets yet makes £1bn profit

Train punctuality is falling
Train punctuality is falling
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NETWORK RAIL’S annual profits have soared to more than £1 billion despite falling further behind punctuality targets.

Profit before tax rose 39% to £1.04 billion for the 12 months ending in March while 90% of passenger trains ran on time, compared to 90.9% the year before.

It means NR again failed to meet a target of 92.5% as it admitted train performance was disappointing.

The company said this was partly down to “slower improvements in asset reliability” though some of the shortfall was also caused by congestion as passenger numbers grew, as well as extreme weather.

Meanwhile, NR’s debt pile, which is guaranteed by taxpayers, increased by 9% to £33 billion.

It said the profit hike was largely the result of accounting gains on financial hedging instruments.

NR also gained a £221 million tax credit.

It said all profits were reinvested.

The company said it had invested £6.9 billion in improving and expanding Britain’s rail network over the last 12 months, equating to almost £20 million a day.

This was spent on new stations, platforms, lifts, information systems, concourses, footbridges and new track.

Meanwhile, passenger numbers grew by 5.7% to 1.6 billion during the year.

NR said this meant numbers had doubled since 1995.

Chief executive Mark Carne said: “We are in the middle of a rail renaissance, with record levels of passenger numbers and record levels of investment.

“This flourishing sector is investing heavily to improve the railway for today and for tomorrow.”

Mr Carne said with more trains on the network than 10 years ago, there were “inevitable challenges”.

“We are determined to do more to improve train reliability in the face of these challenges,” he continued.

“We will increase the reliability of the network and make it more resilient to climate change.

“Continued investment in our railway will also be key if we are to grow our economy and deliver a better, improving, expanding rail network for millions of daily users.”

Finance director Patrick Butcher said: “The last year has been one of operational and financial challenges.

“We have been disappointed with train performance but celebrate continued strong growth, savings made, swiftly repairing the railway following extreme weather and hundreds of projects completed to improve and expand the railway.”

Highlights for the year included better facilities at London’s King’s Cross station after a £550 million renovation, and a new concourse at Reading as part of an £850 million project to unblock what NR described as one of Britain’s worst railway bottlenecks.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Better Transport said part-time rail commuters could save more than £1,500 a year if the Government “honoured its pledge” to introduce flexible season tickets.

The Government is failing to respond to modern work patterns, leaving many of Britain’s 12 million part-time workers unable to commute by train or paying too much for their ticket, the CBT said.

The CBT has compared the price of full-time season tickets and a part-time equivalent on popular commuting routes into major cities.

It said those commuting to part-time jobs in London from south east England would be an average of £1,500 a year better off. Part-time commuters to Birmingham would save around £600, with those commuting to part-time roles in Manchester and Bristol saving £460 and £765 respectively.

In some cases the savings could be even greater. For example, someone commuting part-time from Brighton to central London might save £1,722 a year, while, on the same basis, the saving from Cambridge to London could be as much as £1,814 a year.