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ORR publishes new and improved authorisation strategy

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has just released a new guidance document in the hopes of creating a smoother path for authorisation.

An authorisation letter is issued at the end of a project and approves the placement of a new or updated station, infrastructure or rolling stock into service.

Between 2019 and 2020, ORR authorised more than 100 projects.

Whilst re-strategizing, ORR learned that other regimes were using a “stage gate” approach - a project management technique where an initiative is divided into distinct stages or phases, divided by decision points – throughout the lifespan of a project.

This approach has been adapted and the new document will replace the Approach to authorisations under the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011, which was last updated in July 2020.

The new early engagement process will focus on working with applicants in the project design phases from the onset, to tackle any potential hurdles, whilst providing more reassurance to applicants that authorisation will not be a barrier to meeting project timescales.

It will also help to balance the workload surrounding authorisation applications and significantly decrease, or potentially eliminate the various restrictions imposed by ORR to authorisations by enhancing application quality.  

This means applicants following this process are more likely to obtain authorisations from ORR quicker and without limitations, enhancing efficiency and reliability.

Outlined in the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations, 2011, “no structural subsystem can be put into use unless an interoperability authorisation has been obtained for the placing into service of that structural subsystem”.

Therefore, the ORR can only issue an authorisation for putting a sub-system into service when the following are verified by the applicant:

● A UK declaration of verification has been drawn up that complies with Schedule 5 of the Railways (Interoperability)(Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

● The project sub-system is technically compatible with the rail system it is being integrated into.

● The Applicant has satisfactorily completed tests in accordance with the Regulations.

● The Applicant has prepared a technical file (as defined by the Regulations) containing all the information and documents where they have been required by ORR.

If an initiative requires authorisation, the applicant should plan and scope their project by producing a Project Authorisation Strategy (PAS), System Definition, and a List of Possible Derogations, all of which should be brought to a Pre-Application Meeting with ORR.

Gary Taylor, Senior Executive, Interoperability and Standards, stated “it has been great to receive a big thumbs up from the discussions we’ve already had with projects and stakeholders so far, with a number of projects already keen to adopt the introduction of a stage gate approach as soon as possible.”

He added, “as this progresses, we’ll work with the industry on this approach and will undertake a review of its effectiveness after 12 months.”

The new process is not compulsory, but any applicants deciding to pursue the improved approach will be able to integrate authorisation applications in their project planning with ease.

More details and revelant information can be found in the full document.

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