The proposed record £14 million penalty on Network Rail for the engineering work overruns which caused travel chaos in the New Year was confirmed today by rail regulators.
Network Rail had requested the fine to be set aside and suggested that instead the not-for-dividend company spend £14 million on a series of improvements.
But the Office of Rail Regulation said today that it remained convinced of “systemic weaknesses” in the rail operator’s planning and execution of engineering work and that the penalty should stand.
Thousands of rail travellers endured miserable journeys after the overrunning of the Christmas and New Year engineering work on the West Coast Main Line at Rugby in the West Midlands and at Liverpool Street station in London.
ORR said that customer watchdog Passenger Focus, as well as train operators and others, had supported the Network Rail alternative to a fine.
Some have argued that although officially a private company Network Rail is, to all intents and purposes, a public organisation in that it has no shareholders.
Consequently, any fine imposed on the company is effectively paid by taxpayers.
But ORR insisted today that the penalty should be imposed.
ORR chief executive Bill Emery said: “The board considered the representations very carefully.
“We remain convinced that the systemic weaknesses we have found in Network Rail’s approach to the planning and execution of its engineering work are a serious and continuing breach of its licence, meriting a financial penalty.
“We consider that to accept Network Rail’s proposal to mitigate the fine in its entirety would reduce the effectiveness of the incentive that penalties place on the company to secure compliance with its licence. We are therefore confirming the penalty of £14 million.”