Rail company on track for savings but not punctuality

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Network Rail (NR) is still failing to sort out long-distance train service punctuality, regulators have said.

NR achieved efficiencies of £775m over the three years ending in March and was on target to deliver required savings by 2014, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said.

But it added the company was failing to achieved required levels of train punctuality and reliability.

ORR chief executive Richard Price said there were “serious problems still affecting punctuality” on key long-distance services.

The ORR said it was also concerned about “the sustainability of NR’s management of parts of the railway infrastructure, such as bridges, tunnels and major structures and the company itself has not reported efficiencies in this area”.

Mr Price said: “It is essential that the rail industry delivers significant improvements in value for money. Reducing the costs of Britain’s railways is vital to help ease the pressure on tax and fare payers and freight customers.

“We welcome the progress that NR is making in improving its efficiency and that the company is currently on track to meet the stretching target we set for reducing its costs.”

He went on: “However, we remain concerned about the company’s performance in line with regulatory targets, with serious problems still affecting punctuality on key services.

“Our assessment has been adjusted to reflect these shortfalls. We expect NR to deliver improved performance and meet its targets by 2014, and will keep up the pressure on the company to do so.”

NR group strategy director Paul Plummer said: “We welcome today’s news from our regulator that we are meeting our targets for significantly reducing the cost of running Britain’s railway.

“Millions of pounds have been saved helping to reduce the railway’s cost for taxpayers and farepayers alike.”

He went on: “This progress is being delivered while also maintaining high levels of safety, performance and investment and we’re determined to keep this momentum. That task is getting ever harder as growth and resulting congestion become more challenging to manage.

“The railway’s popularity is a good thing that is to be welcomed but we, and our train operating company colleagues, cannot afford any complacency as there are yet more challenging targets ahead.”