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Network Rail set to miss efficiency targets

13 Sep 13 Network Rail is under-performing on some of its efficiency objectives according to analysis from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

There were 125 earthwork failures on the railways last year
There were 125 earthwork failures on the railways last year

ORR’s annual efficiency and finance assessment scrutinises Network Rail’s expenditure on renewals, maintenance and asset management.

The latest assessment covers the fourth year of Network Rail’s current five-year funding period (CP4), which will end on 31 March 2014.

The analysis shows that Network Rail implemented a number of efficiency initiatives, including the reduced use of subcontractors and is on track to deliver its rail enhancement programme. Over the past year, Network Rail has completed extensions to the East London line, electrified the Paisley Canal branch line and lengthened platforms to increase capacity on the East Coast main line.

However, the report highlights that efficiency improvements slowed in 2012/13 and Network Rail is now unlikely to meet the target of 23.5% efficiencies identified for operations, renewals, maintenance and asset management by the end of CP4.

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “Network Rail has been entrusted with large amounts of public and passengers’ money, which, if invested well, should deliver the levels of efficiency and punctuality it promised to deliver. However, the company is falling short of expectations at the moment. It is facing many problems of its own making, having failed to deliver plans to renew Britain’s rail network, with delayed works now affecting performance. The company must urgently catch-up and address the problems which are causing disruption to passengers and target its work as efficiently as possible. This is vital as it heads towards its new five-year delivery plan with more stretching targets.”

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ORR’s analysis identifies some key issues that have led to the company not meeting its efficiency targets:

The reliability of information Network Rail holds on the condition of its tracks, bridges and other assets is not as good as it should be, ORR said.

Too much of the maintenance work being carried out by Network Rail is reactive rather than preventative, ORR said. There is also an increasing backlog of maintenance work. Network Rail now intends to increase the amount of planned maintenance work this year.

There has also been inadequate attention to drainage, according to ORR. Last year’s wet autumn and winter weather exposed the impact of under-investment in earthworks, such as drainage and embankments. There were 125 earthwork failures in 2012-13, compared to 12 in 2011-12. Network Rail is re-assessing its monitoring regimes so that it can target its work more effectively.

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