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ORR to flag emerging issues earlier with Network Rail and TOCs

To reflect Network Rail’s reclassification as a public sector company, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has published its approach to economic enforcement, including the ability to intervene earlier in face of worrying emerging trends.

The regulator will start using a “range of data and industry information” to draw attention to emerging trends and issues that could be cause for concern in the future, flagging them early to Network Rail, train operators and the funders of rail networks.

Ideally, this would help them manage risks effectively and before they materialise into larger problems for passengers.

Its second commitment is to bring all parties from industry, funders and rail and road users together, when appropriate, to develop solutions to these emerging issues and concerns.

ORR’s chief executive, Richard Price (pictured above), said: “Rail passengers, freight operators and road users are at the heart of ORR’s work. Our approach to enforcement is forward-looking, using evidence and early engagement to address any issues before they affect rail and road users.”

When enforcement action does become necessary after investigations, the ORR has pledged to “focus on making a positive difference” for users, presumably as opposed to issuing fines.

It will, for example, support reparations that directly benefit customers facing delays, disruptions or unreliable services.

Price continued: “Enforcement action is a last resort. Where we have to enforce, where other actions have not worked, our focus will be on making a real positive change to benefit directly those affected by poor performance, and incentivise better future results of rail and road users.”

A recent and specific example of this was its decision to overturn a £2m fine threat to Network Rail by agreeing on a £4m improvement fund instead – designed to improve services dragged down by poor performance in 2014-15 on Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express routes.

Where fines or reparations are instated, the ORR also recommends that these are taken into account when assessing companies’ management’s remuneration.


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