Rail regulators to demand improved punctuality

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The Independent Online

Regulators will tomorrow lay down new trains-on-time targets for the next five years.













Rail infrastructure company Network Rail (NR) will also find out just how much money it will have to get by on from 2009-2014.



The targets and the financial figure will be decided by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) which is expected to demand better punctuality from NR than the current trains-on-time figure which has reached 90 per cent.



The ORR is likely to settle on a figure of £26.5bn for NR for the five years beginning April 2009. This is less than the figure of around £29.1bn which NR thinks it needs.



The ORR will also be expecting NR to minimise the adverse effects of weekend engineering work on passengers as much as possible over the coming years.



Last summer, the regulators warned that although engineering work would be much less disruptive by 2014, travellers must expect weekend work to continue for some time.



NR fell foul of the ORR earlier this year following the hugely-disruptive new year engineering overruns - the worst of which was at Rugby, Warwickshire, on the London to Scotland West Coast Main Line.



The debacle led to NR being fined a record £14m by the ORR. There was some criticism of this fine, with commentators pointing out that as NR was a not-for-dividend company with no shareholders, the bill would effectively have to be picked up by taxpayers.



When, in June this year, the ORR outlined in draft form its funding and targets for NR for 2009-14, it said that the company would have to seek to reduce costs by 21 per cent rather than NR's proposed figure of 13 per cent.



ORR chief executive Bill Emery said then that it was a "challenging and achievable package" but NR chief executive Iain Coucher said the proposed funding settlement was "on the face of it insufficient".

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