Friday, 4 April 2014

Network Rail and delays

It is expected that Network Rail will get a £70 million fine later this year for poor performance. Whilst the men and women on the ground have been doing a sterling job fixing the problems caused by the storms at Dawlish and elsewhere, the organisation as a whole has utterly failed to meet its performance targets.The Telegraph has a very balanced article on the problems.

In a way it is a victim of the railway's success: the network is busier than ever, nearly breaking peace-time records for the number of passengers carried. More trains on the same tracks means that any infrastructure-related problems effect more trains, and the infrastructure gets more wear and tear. In comparison, the performance of the latest generation of trains means that fewer delays are being caused by breakdowns.

Network Rail has to ensure that 92.5% of all trains arrive within five minutes of the scheduled time, or within ten minutes for long-distance trains. During the five year period to 2014, it managed a little under 90%, a large discrepancy.

According to Network Rail's own figures, 60% of all train delays are down to them. In their defence, a third of that 60% are down to factors outside their immediate control, such as trespass, cable theft, or the weather.

This is important politically: it looks likely that Labour are going to call for renationalisation of the railways in their next manifesto, by means of a failure to refranchise the train operators leases when they end. Leaving the wrongs and rights of such a move to one side for a moment, one of the factors fans of renationalisation have been saying is that Network Rail is already in public hands (and thanks to the government removing Brown's awful debt bodge, it is also now on the government's books). If it fails to perform well, it will set back the cause of railway renationalisation.

No comments: