Network Rail Scotland makes good start to five-year plan but performance concerns remain Network Rail Scotland makes good start to five-year plan but performance concerns remain
Network Rail Scotland has saved more than £46 million in the first year of the new control period 6 (CP6) as it looks to... Network Rail Scotland makes good start to five-year plan but performance concerns remain

Network Rail Scotland has saved more than £46 million in the first year of the new control period 6 (CP6) as it looks to deliver £347 million efficiency savings over five years. Meanwhile passenger train performance was below target, according to the 2019-20 annual assessment of Network Rail published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) on Thursday.

The rail regulator’s annual assessment found that Network Rail Scotland had exceeded its target for efficiency savings. This follows ORR’s early intervention and close working with Network Rail to improve its planning after the regulator raised concerns that the company might not deliver the required volumes of work and efficiency improvements that it needs to in CP6.

ORR found that performance of ScotRail trains, which Network Rail can only partially influence, improved over the year. However, only 88.5% of services arrived at their destination within five minutes of their scheduled time, lower than the target of 92.5% (which Network Rail had forecast would not be achieved until March 2022). ORR also found that delays caused by Network Rail reduced during the year, but were worse than target. ORR’s monitoring shows that Network Rail Scotland understands what steps it needs to take to deliver sustained improvement with new plans in place to target areas causing the highest delays.

Network Rail Scotland has also made good progress with many of the Scottish Ministers’ CP6 requirements, showing good collaboration with the rest of the rail industry in developing plans to improve journey times and encourage freight growth.

John Larkinson, Chief Executive, ORR said: “For some time, we have been pushing Network Rail to demonstrate it is better prepared to deliver efficiencies. We are very pleased that Network Rail Scotland beat its target, by delivering £46m in efficiency savings and delivering its planned volumes of renewals work. This is good news for its customers and funders.

“We are also encouraged by the level of commitment that Network Rail has shown in delivering the Scottish Ministers’ requirements on enhancement projects such as the redevelopment of Scotland’s third busiest station, Glasgow Queen Street station and in areas that support delivery of the Scottish Ministers’ strategic objectives – for example working with the industry on plans for freight growth.

“Train service performance for passengers was below target, although it did improve during the year – and delays caused by Network Rail reduced.”

The 2019-20 annual assessment of Network Rail Scotland found it has progressed two major enhancement schemes – the Aberdeen to Inverness Improvement Project that brings increased services for passengers and the significant refurbishment of Glasgow Queen Street station, delivering improvements for both passengers and operators using the station. Both have progressed well and importantly are within budget.

Network Rail Scotland also delivered its planned works to renew the railway in 2019-20, despite the second wettest February and third wettest August since records began in Scotland.

While Network Rail Scotland has shown better performance in a number of safety related areas, ORR has identified that worker safety requires improvement, with Network Rail Scotland failing to reduce the number of minor injuries, especially slips, trips and falls among workers. ORR issued two national improvement notices concerning track worker safety in 2019-20 and Network Rail Scotland is responding positively to these, with plans in place such as its safety improvement strategy, and it will launch a new leadership programme shortly to deliver improvements.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented huge challenges to Network Rail and the wider rail sector. ORR has found that Network Rail Scotland has performed strongly, maintaining safety performance and managing operations effectively while introducing a new timetable which makes sure that vital routes are open to those who need to travel or people who cannot work from home, and freight flows.

Network Rail has continued to collect and analyse performance data during the pandemic, while running a reduced service, to examine whether there are specific improvements to the timetable that can be applied when services return to full operations.

Photo Credit: Michael Gaida

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