NETWORK Rail Scotland's performance was the poorest of all five UK regions - with punctuality continuing to fail to meet official targets.

The new annual analysis revealed by the Office for Road and Rail regulator, found encouraging improvements being made by the publicly funded body in charge of the rail infrastructure, including tracks and signals.

But it found that just 88.5% of services arrived at their destination within five minutes of schedule, lower than the offically set target of 92.5% which Network Rail forecast would not be met till March 2022.

Network Rail Scotland had forecast that in the two years from April, 2019 it would be at 90.5% and 91.5%.

The ORR also found that delays caused by Network Rail were reduced, but also failed to meet official targets.

It has been revealed that Network Rail's own regional scorecard based on its overall performance on a range of issues from punctuality and customer satisfaction to safety and financial management found that Scotland scored the worst of the five UK regions, marked at 43.3% against best performer, Southern, which scored 74.6%. Wales and Western scored 62.9%, Eastern got 56.5% while North West and Central got a 56.1% mark.

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In November, 2018, Network Rail was probed by the transport regulator as it emerged that it was responsible for two in three of the delays which saw ScotRail forced to settle 65,000 successful claims from passengers in nine months.

And in March, last year, the Herald revealed senior managers in charge of Scotland’s rail network would have their earnings slashed by regulators for the first time if passengers continued to suffer severe disruption.

The regulator said that Network Rail Scotland's strongest performing areas were in safety, investment and asset management.

But it scored down because it did not achieve its targets for train service performance, customer satisfaction, reduction in works complaints and other management.

There were 1.24 minutes of delay per 100km of train travel in 2019-20 - 0.18 minutes worse than official targets.

ORR said: "While the reliability of Network Rail Scotland’s infrastructure is improving, it is important that it focuses on other areas where the proportion of delay remains high. Network Rail Scotland knows it must do this and has recently put in place plans and dedicated resources to help reduce delays associated with its operational management of the network.

"Network Rail Scotland is specifically focused on reducing the level of ‘unexplained’ delay by investigating the worst performing routes to better understand the factors impeding performance."

Network Rail Scotland experienced more 'earthworks' failures in 2019-20 than previous year, but also higher rainfall.

The pattern of failures was dominated by two distinct peaks including flooding in August which closed the railway between Linlithgow and Edinburgh Haymarket.

And in early 2020, incidents included a landslip between Dumfries and Kilmarnock and the closure of the railway between Stirling and Perth after Network Rail Scotland engineers found damage at the Mill O’Keir viaduct, as part of their proactive severe weather management protocol.

While Network Rail Scotland registered a better performance in a number of safety related areas, ORR has identified that worker safety requires improvement, with Network Rail Scotland failing to reduce the number of minor injuries, especially slips, trips and falls among workers.

The regulator issued two national improvement notices concerning track worker safety in 2019-20 and it said the rail body was "responding positively" to these.

Where the taxpayer-funded body excelled was in financial management. It delivered £46m of "efficiency improvements" – £7m more than planned.

John Larkinson, ORR chief executive was encouraged, saying: “This is good news for its customers and funders.”

 Meanwhile it has emerged that work on the reconstruction Glasgow Queen Street station, Kintmore station and redevelopment of Dunbar station is about to restart after Network Rail paused major projects in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

Network Rail has said that, despite the three month halt on the schemes, it has invested more than £64m  in renewal and enhancement on other parts of the Scottish network during lockdown.

Projects delivered during this period included laying of new tracks and replacing bridges on the West Coast Mainline, improving drainage systems on the Highland Mainline, and upgrading platforms, station roofs, level crossings and other infrastructure across the network.

Lockdown changes announced by the Scottish Government have now cleared the way for a phased return of the construction sector, clearing the way for Network Rail’s redevelopment projects to restart.

Network Rail has said that the focus on the £120m Queen Street project will be the internal fit-out to the staff management suite, Travel Shop and basement area, as well as the new entrance near the corner of George Square.