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Network Rail fined £2m penalty for licence breach

Network Rail will have to pay £2m after the rail watchdog found it in breach of its licence agreement.

The Office of Rail Regulation said Network Rail should be handed the penalty after ruling that its passenger performance on Southern, Govia Thameslink (GTR) and Scotland were “below expectations”, with the company missing punctuality targets on all three services.

According to the ORR, Network Rail was in breach of condition one of its operational performance licence, which requires Network Rail to secure the operation and maintenance of the network.

In total, Southern and GTR services represented a third of punctuality delays and nearly half of all cancelled and significant delayed services across England and Wales.

In Scotland, while fewer passengers were affected, it was the third time in recent years that “timetabling issues” had caused problems on the service.

It said much of this was down to weaknesses in the data processing used in the timetable modelling, underestimating the impact of the new timetables on service performance and failing to engage with train operators on the impact the timetables would have on passengers.

The ORR has suggested a financial penalty of £2m in relation to Network Rail’s failures on the GTR and Southern services, with the reparations either being paid to affected passengers or in the form of a fine.

Further reading

Today’s penalty follows a letter from the the ORR last week that found that Network Rail could have been in breach of its licence with regards to its enhancement programme. Read about the ‘systemic weaknesses’ in the delivery of Network Rail’s enhancement programme.

So far this year, Network Rail has had to endure the threat of worker strikes, major projects being cancelled or going awry, recriminations over a turbulent Christmas period that saw hubs including Paddington and King’s Cross closed for long periods of time, and now a damning regulator’s report.

Read our June analysis on what’s gone wrong at Network Rail.

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “Our investigation has identified important issues that Network Rail, working with operators, needs to address to improve performance for passengers on these routes. Our analysis shows that the company needs to develop a much better understanding of the impact of timetabling on the reliability of services and on rail users.

“These serious issues have caused severe disruption and frustration for passengers, most notably affecting services at and around London Bridge. ORR is therefore imposing a £2m fine on Network Rail – a decision we did not take lightly.

“The scale of the delays suffered by passengers was central to our decision to fine. The penalty sends a clear message to the Network Rail Board; Network Rail must urgently rectify these errors and deliver the reliability of services that passengers have paid for.”

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