Office of Rail and Road December 2023 newsletter

30 November 2023
Russell Grossman
Russell Grossman
Director of Communications
Cover Image
Photo of vehicles on a section of the strategic road network.

Hello and welcome to ORR's December's newsletter. 

Welcome to December’s newsletter.

During the last month we have been busy helping ensure our work is understood by a range of stakeholders.

In November, two of our directors were before Parliamentary committees, outlining ORR’s important progress on health and safety and accessibility.

On 22 November, ORR’s Director of Strategy, Policy and Reform, Stephanie Tobyn appeared before the Transport Select Committee to address the issues people with mobility problems have within the transport system and how the perception had worsened since the pandemic, impacting the confidence of people travelling.

She discussed ORR's two ‘enforcement pathways’ when action by us becomes necessary: one through health and safety legislation and the other via economic enforcement under train operating company’s licences. Stephanie also highlighted the ongoing work of our health and safety inspectors on the network, but said there was more to be done.

And earlier in the month, ORR’s Deputy Chief Inspector of non-mainline railways, Richard Hines, appeared before the London Assembly Transport Committee outlining key safety risks for the London tube network. He discussed ORR's approach to driver fatigue, emphasising the importance of fatigue management and highlighting ORR’s ongoing work to refresh guidance in this area. He also clarified ORR's role regarding TfL’s safety strategy, explaining our role in issuing safety authorisations and safety certificates.

Then earlier this week we sat down with Government and industry to discuss how to support more ‘Open Access’ operation on the railway.

All the above are examples of our wide and varied regulatory role on the railways, ensuring safe and accessible journeys for passengers, now and in the future.

As a Board and Executive Committee we have also been out and about in November, travelling to Birmingham for the monthly ORR Board. We hosted stakeholders from across the UK supply chain over an informative dinner with very useful dialogue, having spent the afternoon with the HS2 senior project team at their massive Curzon Street station approach worksite.

At the latter (pictured) , we viewed the impressive work in progress on site and discussed arrangements ahead of ORR taking over regulatory responsibility for HS2 when it becomes an operational railway.  This included progress on those key aspects of safety design ORR is already involved with to ensure a smooth regulatory handover when the time comes.

Finally, we have run a number of well-attended webinars to delve into the details, following our Final Determination of the Periodic Review 2023. The slides from these webinars are available for reference on our website, offering a resource for those seeking to understand the detail of our PR23 determination.

Russell Grossman
Director of Communications

Top stories

We have launched an investigation into Wales & Western train performance

Train performance in the Wales & Western region has continued to deteriorate while the wider network across Great Britain has seen performance stabilising, following ORR intervention to require regional performance improvement plans.

ORR has therefore launched a formal investigation into the train performance in the region. While ORR’s investigation will focus on Network Rail, we recognise that delivery of a reliable, punctual train service requires cross-industry collaboration.

Feras Alshaker, Director, Performance and Planning, will lead the investigation, which will take a detailed look at the root causes of the region’s performance issues and will consider wider contributing factors. Based on its investigation, ORR will determine whether or not there is more that Network Rail could be doing and we may then decide on appropriate measures, which could include enforcement action.

Rail Industry Financials released

Our Rail Industry Finance statistical report shows this year, in the context of rising inflation and industrial action, that rail has still continued its post pandemic recovery. Passenger journeys have increased significantly, helped in part due to the Elizabeth line’s opening, and were 40% up on the previous year. Our figures also show that as a result of returning passengers, fare revenue continued to rise and that Government support for the day to day running of the railway has reduced.

ORR has assumed sponsorship of the Rail Ombudsman

We have begun our sponsorship of the Rail Ombudsman, allowing us to hold the provider to account for the independent and impartial delivery of the service. Kevin Grix, CEO and chief ombudsman of the Rail Ombudsman, said: “We welcome ORR’s plans to improve passenger experience in rail and reaffirm our commitment to championing accessibility requirements in our pursuit of an inclusive experience for all passengers.”

ORR greenlights upgrades

You may know that part of our regulatory work is authorising new trains and infrastructure. In this role, we authorised two big station upgrades in November as well as an electrification project. We have authorised into service:

  • the newly upgraded Gatwick Airport station, which opened in November. ORR has worked alongside Network Rail throughout the £250m project to ensure that the station meets a new level of amenity for passengers. There have been significant upgrades, including a new second concourse, an expanded existing concourse, new customer information systems and a dedicated passenger assistance point. In addition, eight new escalators and five new lifts have been installed to improve accessibility.
  • the newly upgraded Castleford railway station, ahead of its expected opening later this year. The station’s second platform has been rebuilt and will be reopened, increasing capacity at the station. A new footbridge with lifts has also been installed, improving accessibility.
  • the new overhead line for the Glasgow to Barrhead Electrification project. Passengers boarding at Barrhead station will benefit from greener, faster and more reliable electric trains, with improvements also being made to stations along the route linking the town to Glasgow. 

Steve Fletcher, Deputy Director of Engineering and Asset Management at ORR, said: “ORR plays a vital role in enforcing common rules and standards on the nation’s railway infrastructure. We’re pleased to have played our part in these upgraded stations and infrastructure projects.”

Station usage statistics coming soon

On 14 December, we will be publishing our annual statistics estimating station usage across Great Britain. Last year’s figures saw Waterloo retaking top spot as the most used railway station, having been usurped the year before by Stratford (London). You will be able to find these, along with all our Official Statistics on our data portal. 


National Highways’ commitments to reduce its corporate carbon emissions

As reported in our Annual Highways Assessment in July 2023, National Highways has reduced emissions by 50% compared to 2017-18, but performance was worse than expected due to slower delivery of plug-in hybrid vehicles for its traffic officer and corporate fleet. Our senior analyst in Highways, Hadyn Gill, provides more detail in his blog.


Highways UK brings together the people responsible for managing, maintaining, and future-proofing the nation's road networks. Over the course of the two-day event our roads team discussed areas including our Annual Assessment of National Highways and the next Road Investment Strategy, RIS3.

In this podcast we catch up with:

  • Feras Alshaker, ORR director of planning and performance
  • Nick Harris, chief executive officer for National Highways, who manage England's motorways and A-roads   
  • Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, the independent watchdog for transport users
  • Sneha Patel, ORR deputy director for roads 


In November, we published the following statistics: