ORR to ramp up scrutiny of Network Rail’s work

ORR will increase the scrutiny of Network Rail’s work on behalf of passengers and taxpayers, as the UK recovers from financial impact of the pandemic.

ORR Network Rail

Credit: ORR

As the country recovers from the operational and financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has launched its business plan for 2022/23, explaining how it will ramp up holding Network Rail to account.

Over the next 12 months, the ORR will continue to provide scrutiny on the work of the organisation on behalf of the travelling public, taxpayers and the wider community. Reform of the railway industry will develop further as the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail begins to be realised, and when ORR is expected to have a wider set of responsibilities than at present.

ORR’s 2023 periodic review (PR23), to determine the regulatory framework and funding for the railway will be crucial to this and for the first five years of Great British Railways. ORR’s PR23 work increases over the year ahead. While that takes place, ORR will continue to hold Network Rail to account on its performance and value for money in the current control period (CP6).

A safety priority for ORR in the coming year is ensuring effective change management during reform, but ORR wants to see a fast return to previous levels of safety training, assessment, and frontline assurance regimes, with ORR’s health and safety inspectors to test organisations on these areas as part of routine inspection work in 2022-23. Likewise, as passengers continue to return to the railway, ORR will oversee that train operators comply with their obligations on accessibility, passenger information and complaints handling.

In early 2023, ORR expects to take on sponsorship of the Rail Ombudsman. This is an important oversight role for ORR that will provide greater confidence in the Ombudsman’s independence as an arbiter between customers and companies.

“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.”

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