Rail regulator says penalty will increase by £1.5m for every 0.1 percentage points trains-on-time figure dips below 92% target
Rail regulators have warned Network Rail to improve long-distance train punctuality or face substantial fines.
It is “unacceptable” that about 13.7m passenger journeys on long-distance trains were affected by late or cancelled trains last year, the Office of Rail Regulation said. Network Rail is achieving a trains-on-time figure of 89.2% on long-distance routes.
The ORR said it must work to meet its long-distance services target of 92% in 2013-14. If it failed to meet the 2013-14 target it would face a “substantial financial penalty”, with the fine increasing by £1.5m for every 0.1 percentage points the figure dipped below 92%.
The regulator said: “Levels of punctuality on long-distance rail services across Britain are good by historical standards but passengers should be experiencing even better levels of train performance”, benefiting from the punctuality commitments which they and taxpayers have funded NR to deliver.
“Let me be clear. We expect NR to hit their targets, and to achieve this by implementing sustainable improvements that really benefit passengers. In the last year, approximately 13.7m passengers’ journeys on long-distance trains were affected by late or cancelled trains – and this is unacceptable.
“That is why we are proposing a penalty which puts pressure on NR to achieve its funded target – an incentive for the company to do everything it can to deliver improvements for passengers, including reducing the number of long delays that impact so badly on rail users.”
He went on: “”We will not allow NR to rest at ‘good’ performance when the public have paid the company to achieve excellence.
“It is our duty as the regulator to push for improvements for passengers – and that is what we will do.”
NR has faced big fines from ORR before. In 2008, the rail regulator fined the company £14m for overrunning engineering work over the 2007-08 festive period.
NR has also had to pay multimillion-pound fines for breaches of health and safety regulations.
All fines that are imposed on NR are effectively paid by the taxpayer as it is to all intents and purposes a public company, with no shareholders and its debt backed by a government guarantee.