Over the course of the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the UK was hit hard when it comes to the operational and financial impacts of the rail industry. As the nation recovers, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has launched its business plan for 2022/23, in which explains how they will hold Network Rail accountable.
Throughout the next 12 months, the ORR will scrutinise the works of Network Rail, acting as the third party between the industry and the taxpaying public looking to utilise the rail services. The scrutiny provided from the ORR will help to progress the reform within the industry and will develop further as the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail begins to be realised.
This plan refers to the outlined desire for a new public body: Great British Rail (GBR), which will run and plan the rail network, own the infrastructure, receive fare revenue, set fares and timetables and generally bring the system under one accountable body to act as the guiding mind.
One of the key safety areas in which the ORR will be focusing, is the effective change management during reform. As the industry seeks to adapt to the post pandemic world it is important for third party overseers to identify the most effective ways to implement the key changes that have been identified.
Keeping in line with these ideals, ORR are seeking to implement quick returns to previous levels of safety training, assessment and frontline assurance regimes, with ORR’s health and safety inspectors set to test organisations specifically on these areas. These inspections will come as part of the routine check ups throughout 2022-23.
In early 2023, ORR expects to take on sponsorship of the Rail Ombudsman, delivering a commitment in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. This is a new and important oversight role for ORR that will provide greater confidence in the Ombudsman’s independence as an arbiter between customers and companies.
ORR Chief Executive John Larkinson said:
“Our core purpose as an independent regulator is to protect the interests of users, ensuring the safety, value and performance of the railways and strategic roads,” John Larkinson, Chief Executive for ORR, said. “We will continue to work closely with government on rail reform while ensuring we are not distracted from our crucial frontline activities, such as health and safety inspection and enforcement, holding the rail industry to account on its commitments and providing services to the industry in areas such as access decisions and authorisation of new infrastructure and trains.”