County commuters have defended the under fire Network Rail after it was heavily criticised by a senior minister.
Mr Baker says he wants Network Rail to co-ordinate more closely with the train companies which run services, but has ruled out reorganisation of the system to create “vertically integrated” companies responsible for both trains and tracks in the different regions of the country.
However, Roger Bell, committee member for the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association, said: “I think Mr Baker needs to get out of London and come to the North of England.
“He needs to look at all the electrification work going on locally and see what a good job is being done here.
“I disagree with Mr Baker’s comments as I think Network Rail are doing a fantastic job around here.”
Mr Baker’s comments followed a report from the Office of Rail Regulation which found that Network Rail had failed to deliver plans to renew Britain’s railways despite being entrusted with billions of pounds of public money.
Failures in the firm’s drainage and embankment systems have increased tenfold during the past two years, the ORR said.
It found the company paid “inadequate attention” to this area which hampered preparation for adverse winter conditions.
Mr Baker, a Lib Dem MP, said the company had been “delivering quite well” on the Government’s £37 billion infrastructure investment programme, which he described as the biggest since Victorian times. However, he added: “ They’ve taken their eye off the ball on the day-to-day maintenance of the network, which is leading to an increased number of overruns on engineering works and unnecessary delays for passengers as a consequence of minor failures in the network.
“The Rail Regulator has set out very clearly their concerns. They can require Network Rail to adjust their programme, and that’s what they are doing.”
Mr Baker says he will raise his concerns with chief executive Sir David Higgins who will step down from his role after next year.
He added: “I am, as I think the rest of the travelling public will be, dismayed to learn that Network Rail is still failing to tackle deterioration in the punctuality and reliability of the network - a matter I have regularly raised with them.Fare payers and tax payers are investing heavily in the future of the railways and they need to have the confidence that Network Rail is maximising the impact every pound has.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We have reduced the cost of running the rail network by almost 40 per cent since 2004 but inevitably the pace has slowed as we carefully balance the needs of the business against stretching regulatory cost-cutting targets.”
“There is further headway we can make.”