The ORR reports deteriorating performance on "key parts" of the network in England and Wales during adverse weather conditions experienced in the past two months. As a result overall punctuality on long-distance services slumped to 88.3%, while in London and the Southeast it fell to 91.4%, well adrift of targets. The regulator also criticises poor management, specifically cases where engineering works overran during the festive period, and instances of basic operational planning mistakes which caused delays.

"Passengers need to be able to rely on the railway to get them from A to B throughout the whole year," says Mr Richard Price, chief executive of the ORR. "However, NR's performance on parts of Britain's railway network has been poor over recent months. The ORR is concerned that the company is losing touch with key performance targets as passengers again suffered poor performance during challenging winter conditions."

The ORR's previous report on performance published in December 2012 praised NR's collaboration with train operators in developing and implementing better plans for improving punctuality, a situation which it says has since deteriorated. And with NR currently falling short of its 2013-14 long-distance punctuality target of 92%, the ORR says it faces a "substantial financial penalty" which will reflect the extent of its failure to meet the commitment. The infrastructure manager will be charged £1.5m for every 0.1 percentage point that it falls below the target.

Despite the criticism of performance in England and Wales, the ORR was complimentary of the effective planning and coordination between NR and operators in Scotland which enabled services to withstand harsh weather conditions, with Price stating that the strong performance here "shows that our railways can deliver when conditions get tough."

"We are absolutely determined to see the resilience of Britain's railways improve, especially in bad weather," he says.