Network Rail delays and cancellations get worse despite fewer passengers

Network Rail has been ordered to improve after train delays and cancellations mounted, despite fewer passengers traveling than before the pandemic.

Three trains in ten are now delayed and cancellations are increasing, Britain’s railway regulator Network Rail warned in a letter.

The percentage of trains that arrived at the stations on time was 70.2 percent in September 2022, according to the Office for Railways and Roads (ORR), compared to 72.6 percent in April 2022.

The worse service is despite passenger numbers, which are about three-quarters of pre-pandemic levels, according to regulator statistics. There are now around 1.1 billion train journeys per year.

The ORR accepted that industrial action and extreme heat in the summer caused train service to be disrupted. But the regulator said Network Rail “needs to do more” after noting delays in driver training and a backlog of maintenance work.

It turned out that freight performance was also at its lowest level in five years. Cancellations have increased from 3.4 percent to 3.7 percent since the beginning of the financial year.

John Larkinson, the regulator’s chief executive, wrote: “Train service performance has steadily deteriorated over the past two years from higher levels at the start of the pandemic. The trend has accelerated this fiscal year.”

A Network Rail spokesman said service quality has remained above pre-pandemic levels. Before Covid-19, the number of trains arriving on time was typically below 70 per cent, according to the regulator, while cancellations peaked in 2019 at over 4 per cent of journeys.

The ORR added that some factors were out of the hands of railway bosses, such as: B. Struggles with repeated strike action and extreme weather in summer leading to fires and track damage.

Fatalities and trespassing on railway lines were on the rise, she added, while driver training was still plagued by a backlog blamed on the pandemic.

While Network Rail, which monitors the rail network across most of the UK, has made “good progress” in coping with extreme weather events and preventing fatalities, it is unable to keep track of many areas, the regulator said in its letter.

It has selected the west of England, Wales, the North West and the Thameslink lines through London as areas where the tracks need better maintenance. The maintenance of overhead power lines in the east of England is another problem, it said. Track conditions and switch damage had led to speed restrictions and further delays.

“Delays attributed to Network Rail have increased in all five regions. Therefore, in order to better perform for passengers and freight, ORR has identified five areas where Network Rail can and must do more.

Mr Larkinson said: “Passengers and freight are suffering from the poor train performance, with the problems extending across all Network Rail regions.

“Of course there are factors beyond Network Rail’s control in order to deliver good train performance, including further industrial action and potential extreme weather events.

“And there are areas like trespassing and theft where Network Rail has worked hard to reduce delays. But it can do even more.

“It is vital that the company now complies with the specific actions that we have identified today. We will continue to closely monitor the delivery and take further action if insufficient progress is made.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/11/02/network-rail-delays-cancellations-get-worse-despite-fewer-passengers/ Network Rail delays and cancellations get worse despite fewer passengers

Russell Falcon

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