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ATOC welcomes ‘limited’ extra regulatory role for ORR

The Government and ORR have responded to Rail 2020, largely agreeing with the recommendations laid out by the Transport Select Committee.

In the future the ORR, not the transport secretary, will be responsible for approving train operators’ passenger complaints handling procedures (CHPs) and disabled people’s protection policies (DPPPs). But the response stops short of endorsing a big expansion in the ORR’s role, which has been welcomed by ATOC.

The response agrees that there is a strong case for subsidy for passenger and freight services, where this delivers wider economic or social benefit but adds there are constraints to greater subsidy. The Government aims to publish a breakdown of subsidy by this spring.

There is also a need for greater transparency in the rail industry, and the Government accepts the ‘clear benefits’ of the ORR acting as a single economic regulator. Work is ongoing to unify the regulatory framework and to improve the quality of information delivered to passengers.

It also accepts that if savings from the McNulty challenge do not materialise, arguments for “more far-reaching structural changes will be compelling”.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of ATOC, said: “This is a broadly helpful response from Government to a range of recommendations from the Transport Select Committee. In particular, we support the decision by Government not to go beyond a limited extension of the ORR's regulatory role as this would have risked creating 'double jeopardy' for train companies and added cost for the industry.

“We look forward to the Government re-starting its franchising programme and to the outcome of its fares review. We are working with others to bring clarity and balance to increased financial transparency in rail. One thing which Government could do is to explain better to the public its policy on how the costs of the railway should be shared between taxpayers and passengers.”

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Image c. Philip Toscano slash PA Wire


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