Network Rail Is Failing Commuters, U.K. Regulator Says

A government regulator will investigate Network Rail Ltd., the owner and operator of Britain’s rail infrastructure, after criticizing it for punctuality and delays to investment projects.

State-owned Network Rail has “delivered far less work than it planned for the upkeep of the rail network, and while train service performance is good in some sectors, punctuality and reliability is below expectations on some routes,” including commuter lines into London, the Office of Rail and Road said in a written statement published on its website Friday.

Only 89.6 percent of trains ran on time, short of Network Rail’s target of 92.5 percent, the ORR said. Among the worst affected are those living in or commuting to London. A 6.5 billion-pound ($10 billion) project to upgrade Thameslink, a busy north-south service running through the capital, has led to chaotic scenes at peak travel times.

Last year, Network Rail missed 30 out of its 84 planned milestones with some projects facing delays or cost escalations, the ORR said. That includes projects such as the electrification of the Manchester-York route in northern England, central to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s plan for an interconnected “Northern Powerhouse,” whose completion date was pushed further back on Tuesday.

Network Rail is responsible for implementing investments of more than 12 billion pounds by 2019 throughout the rail network to add new stations, electrification and bridges. The ORR investigation will “identify key issues the company needs to address” and will question “its capability to deliver the massive enhancements program,” it said in the statement.

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