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June 10, 2013

Virgin Rail to take legal action against Network Rail over poor performance

Virgin Rail Group (VRG) has announced that it is preparing legal action against UK infrastructure manager Network Rail, alleging "sustained poor performance" in recent months.

By admin-demo

Virgin Pendolino

Virgin Rail Group (VRG) has announced that it is preparing legal action against UK infrastructure manager Network Rail, alleging "sustained poor performance" in recent months.

VRG alleged that Network Rail has breached contracts by causing frequent delays to services, deterring passengers from using trains.

VRG claims the poor performance of Network Rail has affected the punctuality of services operated by VRG’s subsidiary Virgin Trains on the West Coast Main Line.

The UK Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has already warned Network Rail for missing punctuality targets across England and Wales, saying that it could face a fine of about £75m if the performance of long-distance services does not improve by March 2014.

VRG has demanded that Network Rail carry out millions of pounds of customer-focussed improvements to compensate for the recent poor punctuality.

VRG CEO Tony Collins said that Network Rail has consistently failed to deliver what it is contracted to deliver.

"VRG alleged that Network Rail has breached contracts by causing frequent delays to services, deterring passengers from using trains."

"That has directly affected customers’ experience, and their impression of rail travel," Collins said.

"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."

According to VRG, Network Rail has missed its agreed performance targets over the last two years, with Virgin Trains’ punctuality score for the four-week period to 25 May 2013 standing at 85.7% compared to a target of 88%.

VRG claimed that over 70% of delays are due to Network Rail’s infrastructure issues, while less than 15% caused by Virgin Trains itself, with the remaining delays caused by other freight and passenger operators.

According to ORR, 361,000 train services in London and the South East and 70,500 national journeys were cancelled or late in 2012.

Collins said: "We have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on a fleet of reliable trains and we pay Network Rail nearly £200 million a year to maintain the West Coast Mainline for us.

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


Image: Virgin Rail Group has Intercity West Coast franchise rights and operates Pendolino and Super Voyager trains. Photo: courtesy of Andrew Butcher.

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