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Railhub Archive
2013-11-28 ORR-001
Office of Rail Regulation


Maintenance underspends and deferred renewals contributing to delays on the railways

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Office of Rail Regulation

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Office of Rail Regulation

Maintenance underspends and deferred renewals contributing to delays on the railways

28 November 2013
source Office of Rail Regulation
type Press release

Previous underspends on maintenance work, deferred plans to renew infrastructure, and other factors including engineering works overruns are contributing to delays to rail passenger and freight services, according to new data published today by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

ORR’s latest analysis of rail performance highlights that more than half of delays on the network are caused by problems attributable to Network Rail. While the company has made progress in reducing delays associated with civil engineering assets, such as bridges, approximately half of the delays attributed to Network Rail are a result of infrastructure failings. Asset failures are also on an increasing trend – particularly those related to track faults, telecoms failures and cable faults.

Between April and October this year, there were more than nearly 16,000 infrastructure incidents across the network, nearly 5% more than over the same period last year, despite benign weather conditions. These incidents caused almost 1.7 million minutes of delay to trains nationally.

ORR’s evaluation attributes some of the increase in delays with Network Rail’s deferral of works for parts of the rail network such as tracks, level crossings and electrification. Network Rail has also significantly under-spent allocated funds. The company’s own regulatory accounts for the first four years of the control period show that it under-spent nearly £1.2bn meant for maintenance and renewal of its assets. The regulator recognises that the company faces the challenges of managing traffic growth and timetabling on a congested network, as well as constraints on the access needed to work on the track. However, ORR has urged Network Rail to make good use of the funds provided to renew the network and address the problems affecting performance.

Alan Price, ORR’s Director of Railway Planning and Performance, said:

“Safety has to be Network Rail’s top priority. Beyond that, its focus should be on delivering improved performance and increased capacity on the railways. The company is currently operating with a large underspend and a significant shortfall against the performance targets it signed up to. It is also behind schedule on its own maintenance and renewal plans. These factors are now contributing to delays to rail passenger and freight services. Network Rail must utilise its funding efficiently to address the increasing backlog of maintenance and renewals works, and improve performance, as it enters a new five-year delivery plan with more stretching targets.

“ORR has set new regulatory targets from 2014 for Network Rail’s asset management, particularly focusing on how it manages, maintains and renews the rail network. We want the company to move from a ‘find and fix’ approach to maintenance to a ‘predict and prevent’ culture, to reduce the amount of failures affecting services. We see signs of good practice and want to see Network Rail working with train operators to deliver better for customers from the outset of its new delivery plan.”

Network Rail is between 0.9 and 5.1 percentage points short of the current funded punctuality targets as 122,600 trains missed performance targets between July and October.

In the next five years, the regulator will monitor Network Rail more closely to ensure it can deliver on its funded targets. Having studied the factors that led to underperformance in the past few years and consulted train operators, ORR is focusing on ensuring Network Rail has the right asset data, analysis tools and technology to support its maintenance and renewal teams.

Notes to editors

1. ORR is the independent safety and economic regulator for Great Britain’s railways. Follow ORR on Twitter @railregulation.

2. Delays in the Network Rail Monitor refer to train delay minutes.

3. Delays attributed to Network Rail on the network amount to 59%. Of these delays, 12% were attributed to track failures; 33% to non-track asset failures (such as signalling, drainage, overhead line wires); 29% to network management issues (such as possession overruns); 21% to external factors (such as trespass, animals near railway lines); 4% to severe weather (such as St Jude’s storm).

4. The Network Rail Monitor is available for download at:

5. ORR has also published performance analysis for Scotland and Wales. To read these reports visit:

6. Network Rail’s Regulatory Financial Statement from March 2013 (Pg. 33) shows an underspend of £1,190m on maintenance and renewals works. To download the document click here.

7. Punctuality targets are regulated on a public performance measure basis (PPM). PPM is a measure of the percentage of trains arriving at their final destination within ten minutes of the advertised time for long distance trains, and within five minutes for London & South East and regional services.

8. Punctuality for passenger services in the long distance sector is currently 86.6% which is 5.1 percentage points behind target. Cancellations and significant lateness is behind target by 1 percentage point at 4.9%. To put this in context, this means 27,000 long distance train services were either cancelled or more than 10 minutes late over the year.

9. Under an order made by ORR, if Network Rail fails to deliver its 2013-14 punctuality target for long distances services (92% PPM) it faces a substantial financial penalty. The size of any financial penalty will reflect the extent of Network Rail’s failure to meet the commitment, increasing by £1.5 million per 0.1 percentage point it drops below the target. If the long distance performance does not improve the penalty could be in excess of £80 million.

10. Routine maintenance activities for tracks have fallen by around 30-40% on average compared with the start of this five-year funded period which began in 2007.

11. Network Rail’s latest forecast for plain line renewals amounts to a shortfall (over the past five years as a whole) of about 600 kilometres.

12. Network Rail had reported that by April 2014, it would need to carry out modifications to components within around 5600km of overhead line wire runs. It has currently completed modifications within 3682km, a shortfall of around 2000km.

Railhub Archive ::: 2013-11-28 ORR-001


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