NETWORK Rail has been slated by the rail watchdog for causing constant delays to South Western Railway.

It comes after the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) published its conclusions on Network Rail’s contribution to the poor performance suffered by passengers on South Western Railway (SWR) which operates services between Weymouth and London Waterloo.

The report found that SWR trains arriving on time dropped from almost six per cent over a 12 month period from 90.5 per cent in 2015-16 to 84.3 per cent in 2017-18 with the ORR claiming that sixty-eight per cent of this delay was caused by the state-owned infrastructure operator.

The report said: “Despite the number of network-related incidents remaining stable, it is also taking longer to restore normal service and recover the service after a problem occurs.”

They also discovered that contingency plans had not been updated since 2011 which provide options for what action to take in cases of disruption.

Processes for how to respond to incidents, such as who should be the lead, the steps they need to take etc., were not always followed while ‘Lessons learned’ reviews did not always happen and, where they did, there was limited evidence that the lessons were put into practice.

Graham Richards, director of railway planning and performance at ORR, said: “Passengers using South Western Railway have faced unacceptable disruption in recent months.

“When things go wrong, it is essential that Network Rail works efficiently to get back to normal service as quickly as possible.

“Our investigation found that Network Rail has not updated its processes and technology to keep pace with the changes on the route. We will be looking closely to ensure it addresses our findings.

“We acknowledge that the performance issues on SWR are not down to Network Rail alone.”

In response, a Network Rail spokesperson said that they had accepted these findings and we will be monitoring their progress in developing and implementing improvement plans.

They added: “This report found we have robust plans in place to maintain and improve our infrastructure, and incidents where it failed and affected the train service fell almost six per cent in the last financial year.”

A South Western spokesperson added that they welcomed the ORR’s report and will work with our colleagues at Network Rail to review the findings and ensure that any outstanding areas are addressed.

They added: “SWR and Network Rail are working closely to improve performance.”

and, although we acknowledge that the last few weeks have not been good enough due to a number of heat-related issues as well as other significant incidents including instance of train faults, trespass incidents and fatalities, April and May had seen an improvement in performance.

“We both know there is much more to do.”

As previously reported, ministers have launched a formal review into SWR’s operation following a spate of poor performance and there is current speculation this franchise could be in trouble.

The operation previously run by South West Trains (Stagecoach) was awarded last year to First MTR, a joint venture between First Group and Hong Kong-based MTR.