Office of Rail and Road July 2023 newsletter

30 June 2023
Will Godfrey
Will Godfrey
Director, Economics, Finance and Markets
Cover Image
Passengers at busy station

Hello and welcome to July's newsletter. 

On 15 June we hit a significant milestone in our periodic review of Network Rail, with the publication of our draft determination. This is where we set out our assessment of Network Rail’s plans, which involve expenditure of £44.8 billion for the operation, maintenance and renewal of Britain’s rail network (£40.0 billion for England and Wales, £4.8 billion for Scotland) from April 2024 to March 2029. 

We find Network Rail’s plans largely deliver against the UK and Scottish Governments’ priorities; however, a greater focus is needed on train performance and renewing core assets. 

We will introduce specific performance targets that are more challenging than proposed in Network Rail’s plans, benefitting  passengers and freight customers. We are also proposing that Network Rail increases spend on core assets for Britain’s rail network by £600 million to improve resilience, especially in the face of the challenges presented by climate change. 

We recognise that the plans were produced to challenging timescales and continue to evolve. However, we require more detail on certain key areas of the plans before we issue our final determination in October. We will be taking stakeholder views into consideration over the summer, including via the consultation on our proposals, now running until 31st August. See our website for how to respond to the consultation. ORR CEO John Larkinson kicked off discussions with his speech at Rail Live on 21 June. 

As well as the periodic review of Network Rail, we have launched a market study into railway station catering. We want to make sure that the market is working as well as possible for passengers. As part of our study to understand potential issues, including barriers for new entrants, we have started to gather intelligence on the structure of the market, the effectiveness of competition and outcomes for consumers. We have therefore invited submissions from interested parties on the issues raised by 7 July 2023.

Will Godfrey
Director, Economics, Finance and Markets

Top stories

Review of joint performance strategies show improvements have been made 

We have  conducted a review of the joint performance strategies produced by train operating companies (TOCs) in partnership with Network Rail (NR). This is in light of challenges on punctuality and reliability across the rail network. As an independent body, ORR as regulator is well placed to provide a balanced view across the TOCs and NR in this way. 

Our conclusion is that rail industry reliability plans do show good understanding of the network’s problems and commitments to improve, but our research also highlights the need to build on good industry collaboration. Following the review, we have made eight recommendations in our response to industry, including improved discipline in timely completion of the strategies.

Train operators and Network Rail praised for their disability awareness refresher training

We require train operators to deliver refresher training on disability and equality every two years and specify the accessibility competencies that staff must be able to demonstrate. This includes areas such as communication skills  and providing safe assistance. We have reviewed operators’ plans, paying close attention to key factors including: whether the training had been developed in consultation with disabled people, and whether there would be assurance that staff had understood and could apply the training content. In our letter to industry, we said that nearly all operators demonstrated good practice in each of these areas.


My introduction to engineering

“Solving problems requires diversity of opinions and engineering skillsets and that has really been valued in all my roles, with thankfully my gender not being a barrier to being heard.” Civil Engineer, Cherry Lam, takes us on her career journey in her excellent blog.


Podcast Episode 18: Heritage Rail

Simon Barber, our principal inspector of heritage railways, and Richard Hines, our deputy chief inspector of non-mainline railways, discuss the frequent occurrences of working-at-height accidents, how the sector can benefit from the Risk Management Maturity Model, co-operation with the Heritage Railway Association and what steps the sector needs to take in order to improve safety.


This month we have published the following data: