Fund to improve railway performance

Thameslink train
Thameslink train

A new fund has been set up to improve performance on the Thameslink railway line.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and Network Rail have agreed a £4.1million Rail Reparation Fund to benefit passengers affected by poor performance on Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express services.

In August, ORR determined Network Rail had not delivered the reliability and punctuality needed to support Thameslink and Southern train services in 2014-15.

Network Rail was given the option to put forward an offer of reparations of face a £2million financial penalty.

The fund will help passengers by:

>Increasing the number of staff at stations served by Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express, improving the flow of passengers and the efficiency of train departures thus reducing delays to services.

>Employing more track workers to provide rapid response during disruptions.·

>Introducing incident management software to help quickly resolve issues that occur on Network Rail’s South East route.

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “We welcome Network Rail’s commitment to improve passenger services.

“The new fund will enhance the service for passengers affected by this poor performance.

“ORR’s latest analysis shows that Network Rail is working to improve the day-to-day performance on Britain’s rail network and its capability to deliver rail projects included in Sir Peter Hendy’s recent review.

“ORR is working with Network Rail to ensure that its plans provide a sustainable basis for improvement for taxpayers, passengers and customers.”

The regulator’s latest monitoring shows Network Rail is working to deliver improvement plans for better day-to-day performance on the railways as follows:

>There is now strong performance on freight services, which are 1.8 percentage points above target.

>Network Rail has strengthened its approach to asset management, reducing the number of track faults (down 16.1% compared to last year) and signal failures (reduced by 7.9 per cent compared to last year).

>The company has continued to improve safety, and is meeting its level crossings closure targets and plans, with over 140 closed since April 2014.

>Network Rail has improved renewals work in key areas, including track (plain line renewals are 4% ahead of plan) and overhead line (32% ahead of plan). The company is also working to catch-up on planned levels of work for renewals of signalling and civils (for example, bridges and earthworks).

However, plans for improving passenger services are yet to deliver expected benefits. The challenge for Network Rail is to identify why, despite the measures it has taken, performance is not improving quickly enough, and tackle the root causes.

To deliver Sir Peter Hendy’s recently published plan for enhancing the rail network by 2019, Network Rail must implement its enhancement capability improvement programme.

ORR will hold Network Rail to account for delivering the improvements needed, ensuring the plan is fit for purpose and put into practice. It is a significant and long-term challenge for the company to integrate and embed the improvements into its regular business, but they are essential to protect the investment being funded by taxpayers, passengers and customers.