NETWORK Rail was praised today by the Office of Rail Regulation for its “strong performance” in keeping ScotRail and other trains running in Scotland during bad winter weather - unlike over the border in England.
• 93.1% of ScotRail trains were ‘on time’
The ORR said “effective planning and coordination” between the firm and train operators north of the Border had enabled the railways to withstand snow and heavy rain well.
It comes five months after the ORR took enforcement action requiring Network Rail to improve its assessment of landslip risks in Scotland following a series of incidents.
The ORR said 93.1 per cent of ScotRail trains were arriving within five minutes of time, which was 1.2 per cent ahead of target and a “continuation of encouraging performance throughout 2012-13”.
However, the regulator criticised deteriorating performance in parts of England and Wales and said passengers suffered from some “substantial” over-runs of engineering works over the festive period.
Chief executive Richard Price said: “The strong performance of the railways in Scotland - supported by excellent collaboration and planning between Network Rail and train operators - shows that our railways can deliver when conditions get tough, where it achieved nearly 92 per cent punctuality in difficult weather with a complex network and varied geography.
“Network Rail’s operational performance on parts of Britain’s rail network has been poor over recent months. ORR is concerned that the company is losing touch with key performance targets as passengers again suffered poor performance during challenging weather conditions.
The ORR said new Network Rail procedures to cut the risk of trains crashing into landslips had been used successfully several times.
David Sidebottom, director of consumer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “It’s frustrating for passengers who face delays and disruption due to a lack of proper prior planning for bad weather. Our recent national rail survey found that only 44 per cent of passengers were satisfied with the way their train company dealt with delays, so we’re pleased to see that the regulator is tackling this issue.”
Network rail chief executive David Higgins said: “The damage extreme weather can do to a Victorian rail network which was neither designed nor built for such challenges is clear. Whole lines were closed by flooding and tracks came close to being washed away by rivers which burst their banks. On the worst affected parts of the network, torrential rain caused up to sixty landslides in a single day.
“This has been a wake up call for the whole industry, which we ignore at our peril. As we set out when we launched our strategic business plan in January, we are playing catch up on decades of under-investment.”