Monday, 17 August 2015


ORR investigation finds Network Rail in breach of licence in 2014-15

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) published its findings and analysis on the 10th August, from an investigation into Network Rail’s performance delivery to Southern, Govia Thameslink (GTR) and in Scotland in 2014-15, which found that Network Rail breached its licence.
Network Rail’s performance in respect of passenger services on Southern, GTR, and in Scotland were below expectations and missed punctuality targets in 2014-15. Southern and GTR combined represented a third of punctuality delays and nearly half of cancelled and significantly delayed services in England and Wales.
ORR’s investigation looked into why Network Rail had failed to deliver its performance targets. This included an assessment of whether there were any systemic weaknesses in Network Rail’s performance delivery. While there were no systemic weaknesses, ORR’s Board took into consideration the repeated past errors by Network Rail on timetabling, lack of liaison with operators and not planning ahead for passengers.
This investigation found that Network Rail did not do everything reasonably practicable to deliver the reliability and punctuality needed to support the train services provided by Southern, GTR and in Scotland. The report identified various issues in Network Rail’s development and implementation of timetables in 2014-15.
ORR’s analysis showed that for Southern and GTR:

  • There were serious weaknesses in the data which informed the new timetables. For example, a number of the timetable modelling assumptions made were incorrect as they were based on flawed data.
  • Network Rail was overly optimistic in estimating and assessing the impact of the new timetable on performance. It significantly underestimated the impact of the Thameslink programme on performance, which was further exacerbated by a timetable that was not robust.
  • These issues resulted in very severe disruptions and frustrations for passengers using London Bridge station. The company failed to engage adequately with the train operators to understand what impact the new timetables would have on their passengers and services.

In Scotland, there were numerous errors in the December 2014 timetable caused by a number of factors including a lack of quality assurance and detailed planning. ORR’s findings therefore highlight the need for the company to adopt better planning and quality assurance processes before new timetables are implemented.
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.”

ORR has proposed a £2m financial penalty in relation to Network Rail’s impact on GTR and Southern services. Network Rail has the opportunity to offer reparations for affected passengers, instead of having to pay the fine.
For Scotland, while fewer passengers were disrupted and performance has improved recently, this represented the third occasion in recent years in which timetabling issues have caused problems. With further timetable changes on the horizon to facilitate the redevelopment of Queens Street station in Glasgow, ORR will be closely monitoring the steps the company takes to ensure timetable changes are right this time.
ORR also conducted a separate safety investigation into the disruptions at London Bridge which found that while passenger information and pedestrian flow management could have been better, safety of passengers was not compromised.