Covid-19: How ORR is playing its part to keep Britain's railways moving

John Larkinson
John Larkinson

Covid-19 presents unprecedented challenges for us all. At ORR we have been working closely with the rail industry, government and passenger groups so rail staff can safely maintain and operate a reliable railway for people making essential journeys and for freight.

We have focussed on responding quickly to industry requests for new guidance on health and safety issues and working with specific parts of the industry and with government on the financial impacts. Wherever possible we have reduced burdens on industry by stopping or delaying non- essential regulatory or monitoring work.

We have meanwhile continued our essential day job, for example on safety enforcement, authorising new trains into use and responding to passenger concerns on information and assistance.

As plans are developed to increase passenger train services, we are working with the whole industry on the principles for managing health and safety risks as passenger numbers increase over time, which will reflect government guidance.

But as we move out of the initial crisis stage it is important we get the balance right in allowing Network Rail to continue responding to the crisis while also holding the company to account for delivering efficiently and effectively and delivering promised improvements, as far as practical. Similarly, that passenger train operators have the flexibility to respond, while also meeting their obligations on passenger information, handling complaints and providing assistance to passengers who need it, again as far as practical.

We have written to Network Rail to set out our approach to overseeing the company in the coming months and how our approach will evolve over time and we will be writing to train operators shortly.

The rail industry has come together extraordinarily well in the face of massive challenges to help make essential journeys possible. We at ORR will continue to work with the rail industry to keep Britain moving.