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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Rail regulator calls for rapid action by High Speed 1 to address missed targets

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The Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) annual assessment of High Speed 1 (HS1) Ltd, the company managing and operating the high-speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel, shows HS1 has missed key performance targets.

Despite the company having made improvements since the regulator raised concerns about asset renewals last year, it missed expectations on lift, escalator and travelator availability; workforce health and safety; and train performance, although at 7.25 seconds delay per train average, this performance remains much better than the mainline railway in Britain.

ORR has been engaging with HS1 and is satisfied that, where targets have been missed, the company is taking reasonable steps to improve. ORR is nevertheless calling for rapid action to address concerns and is continuing to monitor HS1 closely.

ORR found that the availability of lifts, escalators and travelators, often critical for passengers with accessibility needs, needs significant improvement. Some of these have been taken out of service repeatedly, including some at key locations: such as the only escalator up to an international platform at St Pancras.

Like the wider industry, HS1 is facing supply chain issues in this area. ORR will continue working closely with HS1 to ensure that the company is taking all reasonable steps to improve the situation and deliver a better experience for passengers.

HS1’s main contractor, Network Rail (High Speed), missed a target for health and safety on the network, with the rate of workplace injuries remaining too high throughout the year. Most incidents were minor, but avoidable, and mainly due to poor working practices by subcontractors. Network Rail (High Speed) has responded with safety plans which ORR is closely monitoring. ORR notes there are factors outside HS1’s control, for example assaults on staff, where there is a rising trend across the wider rail network.

HS1 has demonstrated to ORR that the company is challenging its main contractor appropriately to improve in this area, but we will hold both to account to deliver improvements for the workforce and rail users in the coming year.

Last year ORR raised concerns about HS1’s ability to meet its commitments on asset renewals, and has worked closely with the company on its efforts to improve in this area. This year, ORR was pleased to see significant improvements on planning and undertaking renewals on a wide range of assets. Efficient management of renewals helps to reduce disruption to passengers and freight services, and reduces costs, which are ultimately passed on to rail users. While some expected renewals of equipment and the track were not delivered this year, in part due to availability of materials and industrial action, the change was risk-assessed and the impact on the performance of the railway mitigated. There were also legitimate asset management reasons for deferring some track projects into the next funding period.

ORR will continue to work closely with HS1 to ensure that future plans for renewals are sustainable, efficient and deliverable.

Feras Alshaker, Director of Railway Planning and Performance at ORR, said: “Our report shows a disappointing experience for the rail users and train operators using HS1’s stations. ORR has been actively working with HS1 and we are satisfied that HS1’s plans to address these concerns are proportionate and deliverable.

“HS1 must now work rapidly to ensure its plans are implemented successfully.”

Photo credit: ORR

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