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16.08.16

Route devolution can help spur transformative rail technology, says RSSB

Devolving Network Rail’s routes could help speed up the deployment of transformative technology in both the short and longer terms, the RSSB has said in response to the ORR’s CP6 consultation.

Responding to the consultation – which invited companies to write their views on route-based regulation from CP6 onwards and closed last week – the RSSB said the proposed plans could incentivise more innovative approaches to improving network performance, making sure whole-life costs and the impact of devolution on operators are considered.

Its head of rail technical strategy, Guy Woodroffe, said: “There is a real opportunity to encourage and accelerate the introduction of technology across the industry to support both near term needs and longer term transformation.

“A progressive approach to the future regulation of a devolved Network Rail and the incentives placed upon it are important in achieving this.”

The organisation also highlighted the need to consider industry-approved strategies when thinking about route devolution, such as the Rail Technical Strategy, which brought together 16 bodies representing every part of the rail system to consider Britain’s future railways; the Sustainable Development Principles, a cross-industry programme focusing on policy and research which supports the industry in meeting the challenges of sustainable development; and the Taking Safe Decisions framework, which sets out the industry consensus view of how safety is taken into account when making decisions.

Under the consultation’s proposals, each route would be required to submit a separate business plan to the rail regulator and would receive its own outputs and funding. The ORR said the plans would allow more reliable comparisons between route businesses and provide better motivation for companies to improve their performance by tying it more clearly to their reputation.

The consultation invited initial views on Periodic Review 2018 (PR18) plans, which will establish Network Rail’s outputs and funding during the 2019-24 period. As well as allowing stakeholders to comment on the proposed high-level approach to PR18, the document hopes to start a discussion on how CP6 can better support passenger and freight customers.

As it stands, the indicative PR18 timeline suggests initial industry plans will be published in the autumn, with the ORR later publishing advice to ministers and setting out requirements for Network Rail’s strategic business plan in spring 2017.

The plan is expected to be revealed in 2018 and the ORR’s final determination will come later that year, in the autumn.

Beyond the ORR’s consultation, the whole rail industry has been looking closer at route-based issues. Recently, Digital Railway managing director David Waboso told RTM that the first digital railway pilot would be revised to focus more intensely on route particularities.

“The whole route system and devolution is meant to align more the train companies and infrastructure together in terms of the outputs for that region of passengers,” he told us. “We have to be very aligned to the routes, and I am working very closely with the route MDs to make sure digital railway is delivered on their routes in a way that makes sense for them.”

Comments

Nonsuchmike   26/08/2016 at 13:44

Wrapped up in much verbiage, this mid term plan for so many interested parties across the rail industry to co-operate over a whole range of issues may well be termed by some as rationalisation with a view to cost capping in the long term. Others might call it the first step on the way to nationalisation and cutting out Directors mega bucks salaries. I just hope that the foresight involved with this scheme will eventually pan out and attract its own reward.

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