Hello and welcome to ORR’s October Newsletter.
As Director of Strategy, Policy and Reform, part of my role leads the team which works to support better customer service for rail passengers.
We require train operating companies and Network Rail to deliver on key regulatory commitments on issues such as passenger information, accessibility and complaint handling.
In this capacity, I recently gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee meeting on ticket office closures. The evidence session formed part of the committee’s wider inquiry into the legal obligations connected with accessible transport.
I spoke on a panel alongside Anthony Smith, CEO of Transport Focus, and explained that ORR’s role in connection with any ticket office closures involved working with train operating companies to ensure that the outcome of their consultations for ticket office reform aligns with their obligations set out in their Accessible Transport Policies overseen by ORR.
We will continue to engage with Transport Focus, and where required train operators, to ensure that passenger interests are at the forefront of thinking throughout this process.
Whilst the work around ticket office closure proposals continues, we continue our day-to-day role in protecting users’ interests.
Back in January, my team wrote to train operating companies asking them to implement a system that automatically notifies passengers who have booked tickets online when trains are changed or cancelled more than 48 hours before travel.
We are pleased to say, since then, the vast majority of operating companies have put in the new system. However, our review of these notifications found they are often lacking clear and useful information around the full range of options available to affected passengers.
We have set out our expectations that all operators improve the content of their notifications to ensure that they are clear and provide useful information to passengers. This includes setting out their rights and options when, through no fault of their own, their train is changed or cancelled.
We will continue to oversee that train operators keep their promises on accessibility when considering proposals for ticket office closures and that they provide consistently good information to passengers when journeys may change.
Director of Strategy, Policy and Reform
Network Rail fined £6.7m for Carmont health and safety failings
Network Rail Infrastructure Limited has been fined £6.7m for health and safety failings which led to the train accident at Carmont in 2020, when three people died and a further six were injured. It follows an ORR, Police Scotland and British Transport Police joint investigation under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said: "Our deepest sympathies remain with the families of Donald Dinnie, Brett McCullough and Christopher Stuchbury. Network Rail has made progress in implementing the safety recommendations that came from reviews of the failings that contributed to the accident. However, as highlighted in our 2023 annual ORR health and safety report, there remains much work to do as we all contend with the effects of climate change on our network.”
Gwili Railway Company Ltd fined £18,000 after volunteer injured in fall from height
Gwili Railway Company Ltd has been fined £18,000 after pleading guilty to one offence under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which followed an investigation and prosecution by ORR.
The injury occurred on 16 June 2022 at the company’s Llwyfan Cerrig Yard when a volunteer slipped and fell from the roof of a train coach to the ground. The volunteer suffered a broken right leg which required an operation and several days’ stay in hospital.
Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said: “We strongly encourage each company to ensure that work activities involving work at height are properly planned to ensure the risk of harm is minimised.”
ORR at Highways UK 2023
Highways UK is taking place at the NEC in Birmingham on 18 and 19 October. Visit us at stand 106 to learn more about who we are and what we do, how we hold National Highways to account, and our role in developing the next road investment strategy.
On the agenda – Wednesday 18 October
10am, Keynote Theatre: Feras Alshaker, ORR Director of Planning and Performance, joins a keynote panel session on ‘Inspiring confidence and progress in the roads sector’.
1:10pm, Big Thinking Stage: Harry Garnham (pictured), ORR Head of Asset Management in the Highways team, joins a panel on: ‘Rather than focusing on new infrastructure, how can we optimise the roads we have?’.
3:10pm, Big Thinking Stage – Sneha Patel, ORR Deputy Director, Strategic Road Network, will discuss the key findings from ORR’s 2022-23 annual assessment of National Highways’ performance.
Network Rail exceeded efficiency target but wider financial performance suffered
In September we published our April 2022 to March 2023 Annual Efficiency and Finance Assessment of Network Rail. Will Godfrey, Director, Economics, Finance and Markets, discusses the report in his blog.
The importance of stakeholder engagement: ORR's assessment of Network Rail
Good stakeholder engagement - the practice of talking to, listening to, and working with those involved in, or affected by, an organisation's activities - is essential, especially for an organisation like Network Rail which is tasked with maintaining Britain's railways infrastructure. Stephanie Tobyn discuses Network Rail’s stakeholder engagement in her blog.
This month we have published the following statistics: