Maintaining and renewing the rail network.

I have a strong interest in how well public infrastructure assets are managed. In particular, I am interested in the extent to which planning provides for the assets to be managed effectively and efficiently. Our performance audit of Ontrack forms part of my Office's work programme looking at major infrastructure management.

Ontrack has significantly more work to do. Its systems, plans, policies, and procedures for maintaining and renewing the rail network are not yet complete, connected, or able to be used together where needed.

Ontrack is not an established infrastructure manager. In the time it has been responsible for the rail network, it has needed to have a strong focus on day-to-day operations. Some parts of the rail network were old when Ontrack took responsibility for them in 2004, but there is not enough information to form a clear picture of the state of the rail network (either in 2004 or at the time of our audit).

Ontrack is actively trying to improve the information it holds about the rail network assets. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of Ontrack continuing this work, and ensuring that information about assets is in a form that can be used to inform planning.

Until Ontrack has a clear idea about the state of rail network assets, it will be difficult to determine the most effective options for managing the rail network and how much this will cost.

It remains to be seen how the Government's recent agreement to purchase the rail and ferry operations will affect Ontrack's commercial arrangements. However, this report provides information about areas that Ontrack clearly needs to address. I suggest that those with a direct responsibility for monitoring Ontrack's performance – namely monitoring agencies, shareholding Ministers, and the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee – ask Ontrack to provide regular reports on its progress to address the areas we have identified.

I would like to thank Ontrack's staff for providing my Office with a high level of help and co-operation during the audit.

Kevin Brady's signature.

K B Brady
Controller and Auditor-General

24 June 2008

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