NETWORK Rail has been fined £53.1m for late trains, rail regulators have said.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said Network Rail failed to deliver on major commuter and long-distance route punctuality last year.

It said the operator only hit 86.9 per cent of its targeted 92 per cent average punctuality levels.

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As a result, under an order made by ORR in 2012, Network Rail has to return £53.1m to the Treasury.

Between 2009 and 2014, the ORR concluded there were approximately 73,100 additional late trains over and above funded obligations.

However, it said it was pleased with certain aspects of Network Rail's performance over the period, saying the company had delivered a major rail enhancement programme largely on time and budget, bringing real benefits to passengers.

Richard Price, ORR chief executive, said: "Network Rail has been successful in modernising and improving the UK's railways over the past five years, during a period which has seen a record rise in passenger numbers.

"Punctuality is important to passengers, but Network Rail fell significantly short of punctuality for long-distance services, so it is right that money is returned to the Treasury."