February 28, 2008 / 7:36 AM / 12 years ago

Network Rail fined over delays

Network Rail workers walk along railway tracks in London February 28, 2008. Network Rail was fined 14 million pounds on Thursday over delays in track projects which disrupted New Year services. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Reuters) - Rail infrastructure firm Network Rail was fined 14 million pounds on Thursday over delays in track projects which disrupted New Year services.

“What happened over the New Year was totally unacceptable for passengers and freight customers, and to train operating companies,” said Bill Emery, Chief Executive of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR)

The not-for-profit rail company said the fine would be paid from funds that would otherwise be used to improve its track, signals, tunnels and stations.

Chief Executive Iain Coucher, whose annual bonus could be affected by the fine, said the firm had already introduced military-style command posts to help keep its massive engineering projects on time.

He also said he hoped the money would still be used to benefit train passengers.

Consumer group Passenger Focus welcomed the action, but also said it should be used to improve services and passenger information.

“Simply fining Network Rail potentially hits passengers twice,” said Passenger Focus chief Anthony Smith. “Passengers suffered the original disruption and then a large amount of investment cash will be lost to the rail industry which could mean poor quality services in the future.”

ORR’s fine could affect bonuses for the group’s directors at the end of the year.

Last May, the company cut bonuses after a derailment at Grayrigg in northern England, which killed an elderly woman and seriously injured several other passengers.

Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by David Cowell

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