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New performance targets for Network Rail

Under-fire rail infrastructure firm Network Rail is to be set specific performance targets the Office of Rail Regulation announced today.

The targets range from improving punctuality for every train company to the amount of time tracks are available to run services.

Further details will be announced in a few weeks' time.

The ORR announcement comes as it nears the end of its investigation into NR's damaging engineering work overruns which severely disrupted rail services over the Christmas and New Year period.

It is part of the run-up to ORR's final decisions on NR targets and track access charges for the five-year period starting in April 2009.

ORR chief executive Bill Emery said: "We are setting out details of how we will hold the company accountable for delivery of the specifications set by Government and of the needs of its customers.

"The objectives of this review are for Network Rail, working with its industry partners, to deliver a railway that is safer and more reliable than ever, while carrying ever more passengers and freight at a cost that represents ever better value for money for rail users and taxpayers."

Mr Emery said the ORR will be establishing a wider range of obligations on Network Rail, filling in important gaps in the current suite of regulatory output requirements.

"Network Rail will be required to meet new targets on the amount of time the network is available to run train services and, for the first time, specific five-year targets for improvements in reliability for individual train operators - all of which will be enforced by ORR."

The engineering work overruns a few weeks ago led to travel chaos for thousands of passengers using the West Coast Main Line in the Midlands and for customers travelling to and from London's Liverpool Street station.

Network Rail has promised to tighten procedures to ensure there is no repetition. In the meantime, the ORR investigation into the overruns could result in its fining Network Rail.