Regulator calls for Network Rail Scotland to improve train performance and deliver its planned renewal works

Thursday July 13th 2023

Scot Rail - eskbank Station


Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

The Office of Rail and Road’s annual assessment of Network Rail Scotland in 2022-2023 (Year 4 of Control Period 6) shows that, in what was a challenging year for the rail industry, Network Rail’s performance in Scotland was mixed.

Train performance worsened for both passenger and freight services and was affected by factors including industrial action and severe weather, such as flooding. Network Rail Scotland missed its performance target for the main passenger operator in Scotland, ScotRail, but achieved its target for the Caledonian Sleeper service. Network Rail Scotland also missed its target for freight performance, although this showed some improvement towards the end of the year.

ORR reports that Network Rail Scotland has worked with ScotRail to establish joint train service performance improvement plans and the regulator will continue to closely monitor delivery of these plans.

Network Rail Scotland fell behind in its work to renew the railway, delivering 69% of planned work, the lowest delivery of all the company’s regions. Despite this, Network Rail Scotland’s reliability remained the best of all Network Rail’s regions, being the only region to end the year above target. However, under-delivery of renewal work could lead to less reliable assets in the future. The regulator is scrutinising Network Rail Scotland’s future renewals plans.

Network Rail exceeded its efficiency target for the year, delivering £99 million in savings. However, its wider financial performance has been hit by costs of industrial action, payments to operators for poor train performance, and inflationary pressures.

During the year, ORR reviewed Network Rail’s delivery of recommendations made by Lord Robert Mair following the fatal Carmont derailment of 2020. The regulator considers Network Rail Scotland is making good progress with these recommendations – particularly those in relation to better weather forecasting and better management of drainage assets.

Feras Alshaker, Director, Planning & Performance said: 

“There is no doubt that the past year has been challenging for the rail industry, passengers and freight services. Our assessment is that Network Rail Scotland is delivering a safe network. But, working with ScotRail, it needs to deliver its train performance improvement plans and deliver for passengers. It must also carefully manage its financial pressures and deliver planned renewal work to make the railway in Scotland as reliable as possible in future years.”

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