Friday, 8 June 2012

Virgin fires shot across NR bows...

Phew, what a scorcher!

Today's train performance figures published by Network Rail (NR) show that the infrastructure performance of the West Coast Main Line continues to be unacceptable and this is having a major impact on Virgin Trains' customers and those of other operators, who have seen punctuality fall well below expected levels.

Virgin Trains will work to help Network Rail achieve better performance, and are meeting with Senior NR Executives to discuss this.

Whilst the Office of Rail Regulation’s (ORR) action last week to focus NR's attention on long-distance routes is welcome, it does not deal adequately with the immediate issues.

We are concerned with the lack of focus on immediate improvement, as we and our customers must see short-term progress, especially as the Olympics and Paralympics will be a showcase for the industry.

The problem has been highlighted recently as improved weather at the end of May ruined performance through heat-related delays with performance on some days being at around
60 per cent punctuality.

We have repeatedly told the ORR and NR that we must have a reliable infrastructure if we are to continue the remarkable growth of recent years, when we have seen the number of customers double to 30 million a year. Anything short of this will affect the potential of the West Coast Mainline to continue its success.


Quite a caveat emptor for others bidding for the InterCity West Coast franchise!

So what has triggered this swingeing attack on Network Rail and the Rail Regulator?  

Well, Virgin's PPM was 89.6% in Period 2 2011-12 and had fallen to 82.9% in the equivalent period this year.

NR tried to rationalise the performance slump in this footnote to the PPM figures:
  1. Virgin Trains' performance has been affected by a number of infrastructure problems over the past month including overhead line issues at Bushey and in Cumbria, some track problems south of Rugby, a number of temporary speed restrictions as well as cable theft and a fatality adding to the overall reduction in performance
Eye understands that Beardie Rail's finest have already determined that JPIPs now stand for Jolly Poor Infrastructure Provider.