Office of Rail and Road Update - May 2019
Welcome to our May Newsletter.
On 1 April 2019, Network Rail entered a new control period (CP6). This followed the implementation of the 2018 periodic review, which set the expectations for what the company should deliver over 2019-2024. Reflecting lessons from CP5, since last summer we have been emphasising the importance of Network Rail being ready to deliver its committed renewals and planned efficiencies from the start of CP6. I recently wrote to Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, to set out ORR’s latest view on the company’s preparedness and where it needs to improve its plans. We will review progress on this over the coming months, and will report again in our Network Rail Monitor this summer.
Meanwhile, we have been changing our internal processes to ensure that we are ready for CP6. As part of this, we have bolstered our teams dedicated to monitoring Network Rail’s routes, to ensure we have the right skills and staff in key areas including asset management and performance. An early challenge for us in CP6 will be in ensuring that Network Rail does not get distracted from delivering its commitments for its customers as it moves to its new regional and route structure.
Elsewhere, our work on highways is ramping up as we complete work on our annual assessment of Highways England’s performance in 2018-19. We are also reviewing Highways England’s plans for the next period of road investment covering 2020-25, and will be producing our advice to government on whether the company’s plans are challenging and deliverable given the resources available. This includes assessing the level of efficiency proposed by the company.
Holding Network Rail to account
One of ORR’s key roles is in holding Network Rail to account for the performance and value for money that it delivers for passengers, the freight industry and taxpayers. In November, we took enforcement action against Network Rail requiring improvements in its capability to deliver better railway performance. We have now approved Network Rail’s performance action plan which sets out how it will address our concerns; we will monitor its progress against this.
Additionally, on 1 April our new regulatory policy on how we will hold Network Rail to account came into force. Our approach will target the areas that have the most serious impact on rail users, and provide for us to act earlier to resolve issues, whilst retaining strong sanctions to address serious and long term failures.
As the health and safety regulator for GB’s railways, ORR works to improve safety across the network. ORR is supporting the rail industry’s five-year Million Hour Challenge which aims to help the Samaritans as they seek to cope with increased demand for their vital services.
ORR’s work to ensure the railways are safe also extends beyond the main lines. Steve Turner, Principal Inspector, writes on how our responsibilities extend to the well over 200 heritage railways in the UK.
Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we now publish all our authorisations of new, major, upgraded or renewed infrastructure or rolling stock projects. Our work on authorisations is part of a growing policy area, reflecting the increase in new vehicles being commissioned, and plays an important part in ensuring the railway is safe and legally compliant for rail users.
You can read more about how we authorise infrastructure and rolling stock in this blog from Gary Taylor, Senior Executive, Interoperability and Standards.