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Tough train punctuality targets set
ANYONE waiting for a delayed train this morning will be pleased to know rail regulators have set Network Rail (NR) tough new train punctuality targets for the next five years.
Nine out of 10 trains must run on time for all regional, London and south east England and Scottish services for the five-year period starting in April 2014.
On long-distance routes, First Great Western must run 90 per cent of trains on time while a target of 88 per cent has been set for the two main London to Scotland routes - the East Coast and West Coast main lines.
Announcing rail funding for the 2014-19 period, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said that by 2019 fewer than three in 100 trains on the West Coast line and around four in 100 on the East Coast line should be hit by cancellation or delays of more than 30 minutes.
The ORR also increased, by £32m, the funding to close around 500 level crossings and improve safety at hundreds more of the highest-risk crossings.
Total funding will now be £109m.
The extra funding comes a short time after the House of Commons Transport Committee heard about concerns about level crossing safety from the parents of Olivia Bazlinton, 14, who, with her friend Charlotte Thompson, was killed at a crossing at Elsenham in Essex in December 2005.
The NR funding includes around £250 million to help improve the safety of track workers and to be invested in new equipment and safer working practices.
The ORR has also approved an extra £571 million to upgrade structures such as bridges and tunnels.
In total, NR will receive more than £21 billion over the next five years to fund the day-to-day running of the rail network.
The ORR will require the company to bring down the cost of running the network by around 20 per cent.
The regulators have given the green light to more than £12 billion worth of enhancements to Britain's rail network to ease congestion and improve performance on the railways.
Within this, projects totalling more than £7 billion do not yet have clear delivery plans or costs. The ORR is giving NR until March 2015 to work up efficient plans for these enhancements before approving the funds.
The regulators are also proposing that rail users and train operators are given a bigger role to shape the specification and delivery of approved enhancements.
This will put passengers at the heart of decisions on how the railway is improved.
Also, the ORR will put additional checks in place to monitor the company's progress on making the network more resilient to bad weather and climate change.
ORR chief executive Richard Price said: "Network Rail has made great strides in improving safety, performance and efficiency on Britain's railways.
"Supported by significant levels of funding from governments, working more closely with the rest of the industry, and learning important lessons from the past, the company is capable of delivering more for customers and taxpayers."
He went on: "This plan for Britain's railways between 2014 and 2019 - informed by the public, consumer groups, governments and the industry - requires a safer, higher-performing and more-efficient railway.
"More level crossings will be upgraded or closed; passengers will enjoy better punctuality and suffer fewer cancellations; customers should have a say in shaping billions of pounds of new investment on the network; and the company will continue to bring down the day-to-day costs of running the railways.
"With increased levels of funding in vital areas such as safety and closer monitoring from the regulator, we expect Network Rail to build on past successes and beat the challenges we have set."
NR now has until February 7 2014 to respond in detail and accept or reject the ORR's determination.
NR's chief executive Sir David Higgins said: "The next five years for the railway will prove to be a critical challenge.
“A challenge to continue to respond to rising passenger demand and our need to grow and expand the network while at the same time juggling the ever harder challenges of improving performance, reducing cost and delivering huge investment projects from which substantial social and economic benefits flow.
"The determination has to be right to help the company, and the railway as a whole, succeed and deliver what's needed by passengers, freight users and the taxpayer.
“We must now look at the individual targets within the determination, as well as the package as a whole, and welcome the opportunity provided by the ORR to use the coming months to seek clarification and work through the detail."
Speaking on Sky News today, Olivia's father Chris said the extra money for level crossing safety was "an improvement" but that he wanted to see a lot more done.
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