07 August 2017

The Secretary of State for Transport has issued updated guidance to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) on the Secretary's vision for mainline rail, replacing guidance previously issued in July 2012.

The ORR is an independent body, but in exercising most of its functions must still have regard to guidance from the Secretary of State.

We have highlighted some key points coming from the guidance:

  • Safety: ORR is urged to ensure the industry continues to focus on maintaining and improving the safety of the railway for all rail users, workers, and the general public – and specifically in relation to level crossing risk.
  • Service and punctuality: stated to be of "paramount importance", ORR is urged to work with operators and end users to come up with appropriate metrics and performance targets.
  • Ticketing: should be simplified and modernised, to help passengers choose the best value fare for a journey.
  • Rail passenger services ombudsman: ORR should continue to support the delivery of an effective ombudsman, to improve redress for passengers.
  • Joined-up track and train: one of the Secretary of State's priorities, to be achieved through collective working between Network Rail (NR) and operators, aligning NR's regulatory incentives to reflect operators' contractual incentives, and greater transparency by NR so the industry has more confidence to work with it.
  • National System Operator: should be independently regulated from any infrastructure manager. The ORR will need to consider this in light of NR's System Operator role.
  • NR's cost effectiveness: NR should be held to account by ORR to improve cost effectiveness, secure deliverability, and reduce unit costs, including by rigorously challenging the cost effectiveness of NR for its operations, maintenance, and renewals expenditure.
  • Certainty for investors: the regulatory framework should create certainty for the supply chain and investors, and also foster investment – including a greater level of private investment. This should include a proportionate approach to standards for projects.
  • Open access contribution to costs: the Secretary of State supports open access, provided it does not significantly impact on affordability or the value for money from public investment, and all operators make a fair contribution to costs of the network. This guidance will be relevant to franchise costing (and risk) and intentions to revise Open Access charging already proposed by ORR.

The guidance closes by asking ORR, with respect for ORR's independence, to work with the Secretary, the Welsh Ministers, Transport for London (TfL), and regional transport bodies wherever sensible to do so and where there is no conflict of interest, on principles of good communication, mutual respect, and no surprises. While ORR's independence must be maintained the Secretary of State is looking for a close working relationship with it.

View the guidance in full

Key contact

Ian Tucker

Ian Tucker Partner

  • Dispute Resolution
  • Procurement Disputes
  • Procurement and Subsidy Control

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