UK rail infrastructure manager Network Rail (NR) has agreed to create a £4.1m Rail Reparation Fund to improve passengers’ journeys into London Bridge and London Victoria.
In August, NR was handed a £2m penalty by the rail regulator Office of Road and Rail (ORR) after a report found that services in 2014-2015 were below expectations.
The ORR investigation found that NR did not do ‘everything reasonably practicable’ to deliver the reliability and punctuality needed to support the train services provided by the operators.
The disruption for passengers was caused due to NR’s timetabling failures and lack of planning for network upgrades.
During this period, NR had seen reliability and punctuality issues, which affected Thameslink and Southern train services.
ORR’s analysis also showed that in Scotland, there were several errors in the timetable last December caused by a number of factors, including a lack of quality assurance and detailed planning.
Instead of paying the fine, NR has now agreed with ORR to set up the Rail Reparation Fund to directly benefit passengers affected by poor performance on Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express services, in particular those travelling through London Bridge station.
ORR noted that NR is currently working to deliver improvement plans to provide better day-to-day performance on the railways.
The plan is designed to increase reliability, punctuality and the overall passenger experience.
Network Rail England and Wales managing director Phil Hufton said: "Passengers expect and deserve a high standard of service and we accept that we fell short for those travelling on Southern and Thameslink services last year.
"Since then, we have invested £11m to improve the railway around London Bridge and elsewhere in the region and performance has increased as a result.
"This extra £4m will continue the improvements we have already made and it is good news for passengers that the ORR has recognised this as a positive and practical alternative to a fine."
The fund will be used to increase station staff and track workers, carry out improvements to passenger information displays at stations, improve passenger flow and the efficiency of train departures to reduce delays.
NR will also introduce incident management software to help resolve issues that occur on the South East route.
ORR CEO Richard Price said: "The new fund will enhance the service for passengers affected by this poor performance.
"ORR is working with Network Rail to ensure that its plans provide a sustainable basis for improvement for taxpayers, passengers and customers."
In order to bring new standards of reliability and offer new, more frequent services, the government-sponsored Thameslink Programme is completely rebuilding London Bridge station and the railway around it.
Upon completion of the work in 2018, the station will have a concourse the size of a football pitch and 18 Thameslink trains an hour will link it directly to Farringdon and stations such as Peterborough, Cambridge and Bedford.
Image: The Rail Reparation Fund will improve passengers’ journeys on routes into London Bridge and London Victoria. Photo: courtesy of Network Rail.