Virgin Rail to take legal action over rail delays

VIRGIN rail is to take legal action against Network Rail in an attempt to improve punctuality on the West Coast Main Line.

The firm says the operator of the rail network has breached contracts by causing frequent delays to services, putting people off using trains.

Virgin Rail Group (VRG) claims Network Rail has missed targets over the last two years, while fewer than the minimum 88% of trains ran on time during May.

A spokesman for VRG said more than 70% of delays were a result of Network Rail infrastructure issues, with fewer than 15% caused by Virgin Trains problems. The remaining delays were caused by other freight and passenger operators.

The spokesman said delays that could be laid at the door of Network Rail had added more than 1000 hours to the journeys of Virgin Trains customers.

Network Rail has been strongly criticised by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for failing to meet punctuality targets, and faces fines of up to £75 million for poor performance on long-distance routes, including the West Coast Main Line.

VRG has called for any financial penalties to be reinvested into rail infrastructure instead of handed over as fines paid to the Treasury.

Tony Collins, chief executive officer of VRG, said: “Network Rail has consistently failed to deliver what it is contracted to deliver. That has directly affected customers’ experience, and their impression of rail travel.

“So any penalties levied on Network Rail should be in the form of tangible improvements that customers benefit from. There is really no benefit to Network Rail, customers or VRG in having money leave the industry.

“Providing world-class customer service is the vision of Virgin Trains. We have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on a fleet of reliable trains and we pay Network Rail nearly £200m a year to maintain the West Coast Main Line for us.”

Mr Collins said complaints to Network Rail had fallen on deaf ears and the decision to go to court had been taken “reluctantly”.

The action is being taken under contractual and industry arrangements available to train operators to ensure performance improvements.

Mr Collins added: “We feel that we are not getting value for money in this respect and our customers have been let down and deserve more consistency.

“We have made our case strongly over many years to Network Rail, ORR and Government. But reluctantly we have taken this difficult decision on behalf of our customers.”

A Network Rail spokesman said the company was working closely with Virgin and its other customers to improve the situation.

He said: “Today there are twice as many trains using this line as a decade ago and, just like a busy motorway during rush hour, more trains mean that if something goes wrong, the knock-on effects can be significant.

“We have identified almost £40m of investment aimed at improving performance by targeting some of the most common causes of delay, and our engineers have already started work on a number of projects ranging from overhead line improvements to better security fencing to cut delays caused by trespass and vandalism.

“Some of the measures will benefit passengers in the next few months while others will require work over a sustained period.”

Virgin trains

Source : HeraldScotland

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