Rail infrastructure company Network Rail (NR) is facing a possible “substantial fine” over long-distance train punctuality.
NR had already been warned by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) that it needed to improve punctuality on long-distance services.
Today, the ORR said NR was failing to deliver on its improved-punctuality plans and could face "a substantial financial penalty", possibly running into millions of pounds, if it failed to deliver on punctuality targets in 2013/14.
Analysing NR's performance between April 1 and July 21 this year, the ORR said that while performance was improving for most long-distance train operators, there were "serious problems affecting some services".
The ORR added that at the end of this three-month period, 88.9% of long-distance trains arrived at their final destination within 10 minutes of the advertised time - 2.2 percentage points below where punctuality should have been at this point in the year, and 0.4 percentage points below that set out in NR's recovery plan.
ORR went on: "We have requested that NR quickly identifies what has gone wrong and explain how it will recover the position for 2012-13. When this has been completed, the rail regulator will consider what further action to take.
"However, if the company fails to deliver the 2013-14 target it will face a substantial financial penalty. The size of any financial penalty will reflect the extent of NR failure to meet the commitment, increasing by £1.5 million per 0.1 percentage point it drops below the 92% punctuality target."
NR's network operations managing director Robin Gisby said: "Today, the ORR has recognised the good progress that we are making as well as setting out some of the challenges we still face.
"Over the last few years the industry has driven up performance levels to among the best in Europe, with over 90% of trains arriving on time.
"Volumes are high and growing and where the industry has focused its efforts, there have been improvements. More passengers are arriving on time on more trains than ever before."
He went on: "At the same time, we recognise we are falling short on some very tough performance targets set by the ORR and are determined to make further improvements, working closely with our industry partners."