The Office of Rail and Road has investigated deteriorating performance in Network Rail’s North West and Central region.
After safety, the most important thing for rail travelers is the punctuality and reliability of their trains. In 2018 there was a deterioration in performance in Network Rail’s North West and Central (NW&C) region, and this failed to recover substantially in 2019.
In February 2020, the Office of Railways and Roads (ORR) launched an investigation into the deterioration to determine whether Network Rail:
- had identified the main factors that had an impact on the performance of trains in the region;
- had established time-bound plans to address these factors;
- was doing everything reasonably in its power to improve passenger and cargo services;
- identified the causes of poor performance.
After a few months of in-depth investigation, in May 2020 ORR released its findings on poor performance in the North West and Central region.
The investigation revealed that Network Rail had identified the main causes of poor performance and started to develop corrective action plans, but lacked delivery times.
The findings have been grouped into a set of 25 recommendations aimed at strengthening Network Rail’s improvement plans in the region. These covered a range of areas including:
- train performance and operational management;
- asset Management;
- improvements and access to the slopes;
- Project Alpha, Putting Passengers First Program and Commitment.
Network Rail accepted all recommendations.
Progress was then monitored against each of the recommendations, and against progress more broadly.
An investigation is an important step in the ORR account maintenance process. They welcomed Network Rail’s recognition of the NW&C region of the issues it needed to address, and their open and constructive engagement with ORR throughout the process.
Assessments of the region’s progress with ORR recommendations have been published for the six-month (December 2020) and 12-month (May 2021) milestones.
Further action needed
In May 2021, ORR found that the region had made good progress against the majority of its recommendations. However, insufficient progress had been made on two operational recommendations and four asset management recommendations.
ORR has therefore extended its enhanced monitoring and evaluation for another six months and will hold the NW&C region to account for its obligations to complete these six actions.
Although there was some disappointment with the pace of progress in delivering some recommendations, ORR closed its investigation in November 2021. ORR’s final assessment confirmed that they were now satisfied that Network Rail has demonstrated a genuine commitment to improving performance and has met ORR’s 25 Recommendations.
ORR will continue to monitor relevant activities and the benefits of improvements, as well as the region’s overall performance as part of its normal monitoring and accountability processes.
ORR’s NW&C region scrutiny program also provided insights that aided their focused engagement with all other regions.