System operation in control period 6 (CP6)

Date of publication
Closing date

System operation plays a significant role in determining how well the railway delivers for passengers, freight customers and train operators and those funding both the network and train services.

This page provides details of our work and publications on this area, in particular, developing the framework for Network Rail’s national system operator (NSO) in control period 6 (CP6) as part of the 2018 periodic review (PR18).

ORR's draft settlement for the System Operator

As part of our Periodic Review 2018 (PR18), we are setting a separate regulatory settlement for the System Operator (SO).

In February 2018 and as part of Network Rail’s SBPs, the SO submitted its strategic plan to ORR, which sets out what the SO proposes to deliver in CP6. This was supplemented by some further commitments in a May 2018 letter from the SO to ORR. We have reviewed these submissions and held a number of challenge meetings with the SO as part of our assessment.

Our assessment has culminated in our draft settlement document for the SO. This is published as part of our PR18 draft determination consultation, which closes on Friday 31 August 2018. We welcome comments on this document.

As part of this assessment, and to provide assurance that the SO’s controls and processes can enable it to deliver its proposed investment in its systems, we commissioned (jointly with Network Rail), an independent reporter study by Nichols. The findings of this review are reflected in our draft settlement for the SO. The SO has now submitted an action plan to us demonstrating how it will meet all of these recommendations. We will monitor the SO’s progress against this plan to assure ourselves that the SO has the capability to deliver its portfolio effectively.

Consultation on possible measures of the System Operator's performance

Date published: 27 July 2017
Closing date: 21 September 2017

This document discussed possible measures that Network Rail's System Operator could report on and be measured against over CP6. It intended to inform the System Operator's discussions with its stakeholders about its CP6 priorities and, in turn, what it should report on. This consultation has now closed.

The responses to this consultation are available.
A summary of responses to this consultation is also available.

Consultation document

Possible measures of the System Operator's performance

Annex: Spreadsheet of possible measures of the System Operator's performance

Our other work to date

Our 2016 consultation on the development of the regulatory settlement for the Network Rail system operator in CP6

This document set out some of the decisions we made on the elements of the regulatory framework for the Network Rail system operator, as well as seeking views on further aspects of the System Operator settlement.

The responses to this consultation are available.

A summary of responses to this consultation is also available.

The consultation document is available.

Development of the regulatory settlement for the Network Rail system operator in CP6
Published 17 November 2016

Our findings on system operation issues, opportunities and future challenges
Published 17 November 2016. This was a supporting document to our November 2016 consultation. This set out our conclusions on the key issues, opportunities and future challenges that we intend to focus on in developing the regulatory settlement for the national system operator business unit within Network Rail.

Options for Capacity Measures/Metrics (TRL)

Published February 2017. This report, commissioned by ORR and undertaken by TRL, considers possible metrics and measures of capacity.

Working papers

On 18 May 2016, we published our initial consultation on PR18. This set out our proposal to focus our regulation on Network Rail’s system operation functions and its devolved routes. In support of developing the detailed policy framework for system operation, we also published two working papers on this along with a conclusions note from our August 2015 consultation (see below).

  • Working paper 2: This set out our initial views on potential issues and opportunities in system operation.
  • Working paper 3: This set out our initial views on the regulatory framework for Network Rail’s system operator function.

The responses to these two working papers are available.

Our 2015 consultation on system operation

Our conclusions

In June 2016, alongside working papers 2 and 3, we published a note concluding on our August 2015 consultation.

A conclusions note to our August 2015 system operation consultation
7 June 2016


Date published: 13 August 2015
Closing date: 16 October 2015

The purpose of this consultation was to inform our preparation for PR18 in respect of Network Rail’s system operation role. In particular, it looked at how Network Rail operates the rail network and how decisions by both Network Rail and others are made about the use of this network and its expansion over time.

Consultation document


Workshop, 2 October 2015

ORR hosted a workshop with a wide-range of industry stakeholders on Friday 2 October 2015. The purpose of this workshop was to discuss and hear stakeholders' views on system operation (including the concepts of system operation and the possible issues and opportunities) and to explore how Network Rail's dashboard could be usefully developed.

Further information

To support our work to consider how capacity on the railway system is managed, we commissioned Credo Consulting to collect evidence from case studies drawn from GB rail, international rail, and other regulated industries to illustrate best-practice approaches to capacity management.