Office of Rail and Road Update - June 2019
Welcome to our June Newsletter.
This newsletter is an opportunity to congratulate the industry on the May 2019 timetable changes. Over one thousand services have been added, which will benefit passengers, and with very little disruption. Our board travelled to Glasgow on the first Monday of the timetable change so we had an excellent opportunity to see just how well it was functioning.
However, there is an area where we can, and must, do better, and that is around access rights.
For the May 2019 timetable change, of the 20 plus applications requiring our approval, over 50% were received within six weeks of the timetable change date. These services had already been included in the timetable, and any changes would have led to major disruption. Such short notice applications cannot be given the scrutiny, and opportunity for review and challenge from other users, that is needed.
A bad culture has developed: train operators have engaged with Network Rail and third parties too late, Network Rail has been unwilling to commit to access rights before a full timetable has been developed, and where there are conflicts in train service specifications these have been slow to be identified/resolved. And we in ORR have been too flexible in trying to accommodate this.
We all need to tackle that culture. I wrote to the industry on 30 May 2019 to set out what has to be done.
News from our Board
At the end of April, Tracey Barlow, a non-executive director for ten years, stood down from the Board. She has written a blog about her time as a member of the Board, and the changes that ORR has been through over that period, from the expansion of our regional offices to broadening our remit to roads.
Moving on to May, the Board undertook one of its regular visits outside of London, this time meeting in Glasgow. The Board welcomed the opportunity to meet with stakeholders at dinner, and also undertook visits to the Polmadie Train Care Centre and Glasgow Subway to hear from the teams there about the important work that they do.
Alongside the engagement in Glasgow, the Board had a number of important decisions to take. One of the things the Board discussed was GTR’s representations on the level of the fine that we proposed to levy due to its failures on passenger information during May 2018’s timetable disruption. The Board agreed that its proposed fine of £5m was appropriate and we have now written to GTR to confirm this. All correspondence regarding this decision is available on our website.
Mental health on the railway
Mental health is a key issue for the rail industry, as sadly the rate of suicide is higher than the UK average and 60% of workers have experienced mental health issues. ORR is supporting the Samaritans’ million hour challenge and Chief Inspector Ian Prosser talks about this in his blog.
Consultations and statistics
Over the last month we have published the rail fares index, and passenger and freight rail performance for Q4 2018-19.
We have also launched a consultation on the update to ORR's guidance on access to service facilities, which you can respond to until 23 June 2019.
New joiners at ORR
We will be flagging some of our key appointments each month, so you can stay up to date with any staff changes and know who the right people to speak to at ORR are.
This month we are pleased to welcome: Dermot Kelly, our new head of civil engineering, and Gareth Clancy, who is providing maternity cover as Head of Regulatory Economics.