Office of Rail and Road Update - January 2020

Welcome to our January newsletter.

Happy new year and welcome to ORR’s first newsletter of 2020.

As you might expect, the restrictions placed on government departments during election periods had an effect on our publication schedule in the run up to Christmas. We’re therefore publishing a greater number of documents and consultations early in 2020 than we would usually.  

One of these is our final determination of the charges needed to keep HS1 in a good condition; HS1, like other parts of the network, is a valuable public asset and our role is to provide independent assurance that it will be kept in good condition over the long-term at the lowest possible cost.

Our final determination sets total charges per year, for the next five years, at £119m. This includes the costs of operating and maintaining the network, and an annual renewals charge of £25.9m (£12.3m lower than HS1 Ltd originally proposed in May 2019).

We are also developing our business plans for the next financial year. We will again be carrying out a series of regional meetings to ensure that stakeholders across the UK have the opportunity to contribute to our priorities for 2020/21. Further information on these events will follow in due course.

John Larkinson
Chief Executive

Top stories

Driving cost-efficiency, performance and competition

In mid-December, we published our first assessments of how efficiently Network Rail is delivering against the five-year plans set out for CP6. We set out our views of Network Rail’s performance in England and Wales and in Scotland; we see a welcome trend in that Network Rail is improving its efficiency. That reversal of a long term decline in efficiency is positive, but as targets increase significantly in year 2, we will continue to monitor their trajectory carefully.  Alongside these, we also published updates on Network Rail’s expenditure in Scotland for the first year of CP6 and a letter setting out our view of their ‘Putting Passengers First’ programme.

Protecting Passenger's Interests

Whilst DfT sets overall rail accessibility policy and has recently granted some dispensations around some non-compliant replacement vehicles, it’s essential that any such dispensations are properly communicated to passengers so that they are able to plan their journey.

ORR has written to all train companies re-emphasising their responsibility to let passengers know about accessibility issues which might affect their journeys. We will monitor how the train operating companies provide that information, including carrying out ‘mystery shopping’ exercises online and in stations.

We’ve also opened a consultation on revising our Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) Guidance to improve the availability of accessible vehicles for use by disabled passengers during rail disruption, and to ensure passengers know when accessible buses and coaches will be operated.

Power Disruption report

On 9th August 2019, disruption to the power supply on the national electricity grid affected the railway network and caused significant disruption. Following the incident, ORR engaged with a number of organisations including Ofgem and Network Rail, concentrating on the impact the power disruption had on the train network. We’ve published our report on the power outage’s effect on trains, which includes actions and recommendations on some of the technical and resilience issues which arose.

Monitoring Highways England

We’ve published a consultation on updating our monitoring framework and enforcement policy for Highways England. We first set out our framework and policy in 2015, when we took on our role as Highways England’s Monitor, and this consultation draws upon our experience of monitoring Highways England during the first Road Investment Strategy (RIS1), and in preparation for the second Road Investment Strategy, expected to start in April 2020.

The consultation considers how we might combine our monitoring framework and enforcement policy, and utilise new tools to assist early resolution of issues, and incentivise performance.