ORR’s year in review

22 December 2016

By Joanna Whittington, CEO.

Joanna WhittingtonProtecting the interests of existing and future road and rail users is at the heart of what we do at ORR. And at a time when Britain’s transport needs are growing, this focus is more important than ever. Traffic on the strategic roads network has grown by almost twenty percent since 2000. The railway is attracting record passenger numbers –now carrying double the amount of people it did twenty years ago. In the last year alone, passengers made 1.73 billion journeys on Britain’s rail network. We recognise that if we are to be effective in our work for all transport users we must evolve our own ways of working to reflect changes in the sectors we regulate.

We also strive to be a high performing – and listening – regulator, operating with consistency and transparency, to promote safety and efficiency for the benefit of the travelling public. Reflecting on ORR’s performance against our 2016-17 Business Plan, I’m pleased to report that in 2016, we are on course to meet our commitments.

Highlights of our work this year for each of our strategic objectives include:

A safer railway

  • We have once again met our commitment to have our safety inspectors spend more than 50% of their time on proactive inspection. ORR’s stance has long been that a proactive approach to health and safety is essential to delivering a safer railway for both passengers and the workforce, as well as improving workplace wellbeing.

Better customer service

  • We have continued to monitor train operators’ progress to see what more can be done to deliver a better deal for customers and to put the results into the public domain. Most recently we have published an update on companies’ progress in improving passenger awareness of compensation delays following our report in March which set out recommendations.

Value for money from the railway

  • We published our Annual Efficiency and Finance Assessment for Network Rail as well as our two half yearly Monitors for England and Wales and for Scotland, in which we monitor progress in performance, safety and efficiency.
  • We welcome Network Rail’s devolution of its operational business which allows better understanding of its customers’ needs. We have set up dedicated route leads within ORR in response to this and are looking carefully at what we can do to ensure that the benefits of this approach are passed on to passengers.

Better highways

  • We published our first Annual Assessment of Highways England which showed that the company has made a good start on delivering the £15bn investment in the strategic road network, but a more robust internal planning process is needed to make sure that future targets are met.
  • In addition to monitoring Highways England’s progress in delivering the first five-year Road Investment Strategy (RIS), we have also set out how we will contribute to the development of the next road investment funding period – RIS2.

Promoting a dynamic and commercially sustainable rail sector

  • We have continued listening and engaging with stakeholders as we develop the outputs, costs and incentives for Network Rail for the next five year funding period “PR18”. During the year we published our first consultation and our response. Reflecting on the feedback we have received, we have responded with a revised programme of work that focuses on the introduction of route level regulation and a new approach to the regulation of a national system operator. We have targeted our proposals on changes to charges where the case for reform is strong or there are opportunities for simplification.

We also look forward to working with government, industry and investors on how regulation could support the Government’s rail reform agenda for the benefit of passengers and freight customers.

With my best wishes over the festive period,
Joanna Whittington, CEO