The law and our duties

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We operate within the framework set by legislation, and we are accountable through Parliament and the courts. 

In this section you can find details of our statutory duties and the relevant legislation.

Rail regulation

We hold the railway industry to account to meet the priorities of the governments in England, Scotland and Wales.

We operate within the framework set by legislation and we are accountable through Parliament and the courts. Our economic and safety functions and duties are defined in:

  • the Railways Act 1993;
  • the Railways Act 2005;
  • the Railways and other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006;
  • the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2010;
  • the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

ORR also has economic regulatory functions in relation to railways in Northern Ireland and for the northern half of the Channel Tunnel, situated in the UK.

We are the national safety authority for Britain's railways, and we also work with the Competition and Markets Authority to apply the Competition Act 1998 and the Enterprise Act 2002 in relation to the railways.

We are funded by the rail industry through licence fees and safety levies.

Rail regulatory law

This page provides summaries of the main pieces of primary and secondary legislation (in chronological order) which are relevant to our rail regulatory functions.

Legislation is published on http://www.legislation.gov.uk/. Acts and Regulations may have been amended since they were passed.

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) Collapse accordion Open accordion

This is the fundamental piece of health and safety legislation. It places general duties on employers, people in control of premises, manufacturers and employees. Health and safety regulations made under HSWA contain more detailed provisions.

HSWA provides the framework for the regulation of industrial health and safety in the UK which is relevant to ORR as the health and safety regulator for the rail industry.

The Level Crossings Act 1983 Collapse accordion Open accordion

This Act provides for level crossing orders to be made which contain detailed provisions for the protection of level crossing users.

Railways Act 1993 (RA93) Collapse accordion Open accordion

This Act contains most of our functions including, but not limited to:

  • licensing;
  • access agreements;
  • review of access charges; and
  • enforcement.

It also contains our section 4 statutory duties which we must take into account in exercising our economic functions.

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) Collapse accordion Open accordion

These regulations require dutyholders to notify ORR of significant health and safety incidents on the railways.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 Collapse accordion Open accordion

This Act gives ORR an overriding duty to exercise its regulatory functions in such a manner as not to impede the performance of any development agreement.

The Competition Act 1998 Collapse accordion Open accordion

This legislation prohibits certain kinds of commercial behaviour because of the harm it causes to consumers and competition generally. We enforce the Competition Act 1998 where this type of behaviour involves services relating to the railways.

More information can be found in our competition section.

Transport Act 2000 Collapse accordion Open accordion

This Act has been largely superseded by the Railways Act 2005. It amended the RA93 enabling ORR in certain circumstances to require the operators or owners of railway facilities to provide new or improved facilities.

The Enterprise Act 2002 Collapse accordion Open accordion

This Act contains provisions relating to competition and consumer protection law. It provides ORR with the power to refer rail-related markets that are not working well for consumers to the Competition Commission.

The Act also gives ORR the responsibility for dealing with 'super-complaints' made by consumer bodies about problems in rail-related markets.

Railway and Transport Safety Act 2003 Collapse accordion Open accordion

This Act abolished the Rail Regulator and created the Office of Rail Regulation.

Pursuant to the Office of Rail Regulation (Change of Name) Regulations 2015, ORR’s name was changed to the Office of Rail and Road.

Railways Act 2005 Collapse accordion Open accordion

The Railways Act 2005 largely amends the RA93. The Act makes a number of changes to our regulatory framework, including:

  • a change to the statutory framework for periodic reviews of access charges;
  • transferring responsibility for rail-specific health and safety regulation from the Health and Safety Executive to us;
  • creation of additional functions for us, including a role in dealing with statutory closures;
  • transferring responsibility for monitoring and enforcing the licence conditions concerning consumer protection from the Strategic Rail Authority; and
  • providing advice and assistance to the Secretary of State for Transport, Scottish Ministers and the National Assembly for Wales.

Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2005 Collapse accordion Open accordion

These regulations give ORR the authority to issue European licences and Statements of National Provisions (SNRPs). European licences are valid across Europe while SNRPs are only relevant to the UK.

More information can be found in our licensing section.

The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS) Collapse accordion Open accordion

These regulations implement EU safety requirements for railway operators and infrastructure managers. ROGS requires that those with responsibility for safety must maintain a safety management system and hold a safety certificate/authorisation issued by ORR, before being allowed to operate.

ROGS also makes provision for the safe design of new vehicles and infrastructure, imposes controls on safety critical work and, following amendments in 2011, makes provision for entities in charge of maintenance of railway vehicles.

More information can be found in our ROGS section.

The Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority for Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems) Regulations 2006 (EARR) Collapse accordion Open accordion

EARR makes us the enforcing authority for HSWA in relation to the operation of a railway. This gives us the power to serve enforcement notices, and prosecute for breaches in health and safety law affecting the railways.

The Railway Safety Levy Regulations 2006 Collapse accordion Open accordion

These regulations give ORR the authority to raise a levy from all railway service providers to fund railway safety functions.

Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 Collapse accordion Open accordion

This Act requires ORR to keep our functions under review and ensure that in exercising these functions we do not impose or maintain unnecessary burdens.

The Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011 Collapse accordion Open accordion

These regulations implement European Directives which have the purpose of establishing common operational standards and practices across European railways. ORR is responsible for issuing interoperability authorisations.

Localism Act 2011 Collapse accordion Open accordion

The Localism Act 2011 requires local planning authorities, ORR and other public bodies to cooperate in planning processes, by engaging "constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis" to develop strategic policies. In particular, the duty:

  • relates to sustainable development or use of land that would have a significant impact on at least two local planning areas or on a planning matter that falls within the remit of a county council;
  • requires that councils set out planning policies to address such issues; and
  • requires councils to consider joint approaches to plan making.

For further information, please read our guidance.

Railways (Access, Management and Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2016 Collapse accordion Open accordion

These Regulations implement European Directives which open up access to networks and service facilities. They also contain provisions relating to access, infrastructure management and allocation of capacity and charging. The regulations give applicants a right of appeal to ORR if they believe they have been unfairly treated, discriminated against or are in any other way aggrieved or against a decision made by an infrastructure manager, service provider or railway undertaking in relation to certain matters.

The Railways (Infrastructure Access, Management and Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 Collapse accordion Open accordion

These Regulations implement the above European Directives in respect of Northern Ireland and contain broadly similar provisions on access, infrastructure management and allocation of capacity and charging. Similarly, these Regulations give applicants a right of appeal to ORR if they believe they have been unfairly treated, discriminated against or are in any other way aggrieved or against a decision made by an infrastructure manager, service provider or railway undertaking in relation to certain matters.

Highways Monitor

We monitor National Highways and its management of the strategic road network in England to ensure the network is managed to deliver performance for the benefit of road users and the public.

We operate within the framework set by the legislation and we are accountable through Parliament and the courts. Our monitoring and enforcement functions and duties are set out in the Infrastructure Act 2015.

Road regulatory law

Summaries of the main pieces of primary and secondary legislation (in chronological order) which are relevant to our road regulatory functions.

Legislation is published on https://www.legislation.gov.uk/. Acts and Regulations may have been amended since they were passed.

Our Highways Monitor role encompasses holding Highways England to account and taking enforcement action where we consider it appropriate. ORR can only enforce against National Highways in relation to its compliance with its Road Investment Strategy and Statutory Directions and Guidance issued by the Secretary of State, including the company’s licence.

The main piece of legislation which is relevant to ORR’s Monitor functions is the Infrastructure Act 2015 and regulations made under it.

Infrastructure Act 2015 Collapse accordion Open accordion

This is the fundamental piece of legislation relevant to ORR’s Monitor functions. In particular it sets out the role and function of a Strategic Highways Company (SHC) and the scope of ORR’s Monitor role and the duties with which ORR must comply.

The Act provides the framework for ORR’s monitoring of National Highways (formerly Highways England) as an SHC.

The SHC is designated under the Infrastructure Act 2015 (Strategic Highways Companies) (Consequential, Transitional and Savings Provisions) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/377).