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Network Rail missed more than a third of targets in first year of its £38bn renewal project

The rail regulator has criticised Network Rail for “falling short” in its delivery of essential work to improve Britain’s rail lines and stations.

The Office of Road and Rail performance review of Network Rail found that the company had missed 30 out of 84 “milestone targets” on major infrastructure projects between October 2014 and March 2015.

The watchdog has launched an investigation into Network Rail’s efficiency and called on it to “demonstrate how it plans to get back on schedule”.

Last year, Network Rail announced the start of its £38bn plan to build new tracks, increase capacity and upgrade outdated stations.

As part of control period 5 (CP5), Network Rail pledged to renew more than 7,000 km of track, replace 300,000 sq m of station platform and renew thousands of signalling units by 2019.

However, the ORR has now said Network Rail has failed to meet renewals and maintenance targets and is behind schedule on a number of projects.

Commenting on the findings, ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “Network Rail has made a slow start in delivering on its enhancements and performance targets for CP5 and we have asked it to demonstrate how it plans to get back on schedule to deliver on its commitments to 2019.

“The company is falling short of its own targets on completing renewals works for the upkeep of the rail network.”

In total, 7 per cent of all track renewals were behind schedule, while 63 per cent of signalling renewals and 77 per cent of overhead line renewals had not been completed in time.

There have also been a number of delays on projects, most notably over the Christmas period, when over-running engineering works caused disruption for thousands of passengers travelling in and out of King’s Cross and Paddington stations.

Mr Price added: “ORR is investigating Network Rail’s performance improvement plans and delivery of enhancements.

“This work will help identify the issues the company needs to address to improve train performance, increase capacity and deliver on its commitments to passengers.”

In response to the findings, a Network Rail spokesman said: “There are clearly opportunities to improve following decades of under-investment in the rail network.  

“However, it is worth highlighting that we operate the safest passenger network in Europe and the railway asset reliability is the best it has ever been.  

“The increase in passengers means more people are getting to their destination on time than ever before.” 

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