I am grateful that the Secretary of State has reappointed me as Chair of the Office of Rail and Road for a second five-year term, from 1 January 2024.
My first term, which began in 2019, has seen huge challenges for the rail and road sectors, not least those posed by the pandemic. Throughout, I have been clear that ORR needs to play its part as a modern, agile, dynamic regulator, providing expert oversight and assurance to government and users. In this regard, I am very pleased with the contribution that ORR has been able to make beyond its usual ‘day job’.
ORR played a key role in the recovery from COVID-19, responding quickly to provide advice and support to government and industry throughout, while protecting the interests of passengers as service levels changed in response to circumstances. It has taken on new responsibilities at the request of government, for example, carrying out an independent review on smart motorways data and monitoring National Highways’ delivery of its smart motorways action plan, providing assurance to government and road users. And it has continued to provide ongoing support and advice behind the scenes to government regarding rail reform, helping to ensure that important industry and consumer factors are properly considered.
A priority for me on becoming Chair was to challenge the rail industry to improve its focus on consumers. ORR has since driven some important changes in this area, including for those passengers requiring assistance when they travel. One such improvement is the reduction in the notice period for those that want to book their assistance before their journey, from 24 hours to 2 hours – a really important change. Elsewhere, we pressed the industry to improve how it provides reliable information to passengers, and it is now implementing a programme to do this. There is of course more to do but our focus on the consumer remains.
Another key area for me was to ensure that the ORR Board has the right mix of skills to help guide the organisation in the face of future challenges. I believe that we have been successful in building a Board with the requisite skills but we will need to continue to focus on maintaining this as we deal with a natural renewal cycle with some very experienced existing members stepping down as their terms come to an end.
It’s clear that my second term will be no less challenging than the first, particularly with the impacts of climate change, the difficult financial and economic environment and issues arising from artificial intelligence to address. But there are also big opportunities, including new digital technology and improved data analytics which could drive better and more efficient decision making, as well as improving the service that end users receive.
All these issues are matters that the ORR Board will need to take careful account of in the coming years, and I look forward to continuing to work with all our stakeholders over my second term.
Like any other business, minor and heritage railways need to comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and regulations made under it. This includes the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGs). ROGs give us discretion to exclude certain transport systems, such as minor and heritage railways, from the mainline railway requirements.
We have now published guidance for minor and heritage railways to help them interpret and apply the specific requirements of Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS).
ORR at Highways UK 2023
At this year’s Highways UK event on 18th October, ORR will be at stand 106. Stop by to see some of the work we have been doing over the last year and chat with our Highways team. We also have some of our team speaking at different points across the day on 18 October:
- Feras Alshaker, Director of Planning and Performance, speaking on a panel: Inspiring confidence and progress in the roads sector. 18 October at 10:00.
- Harry Garnham, Highways Head of Performance, speaking on a panel: Rather than focusing on new infrastructure, how can we optimise the roads we have? 18 October at 13:10.
- Sneha Patel, Deputy Director Strategic Road Network Monitor, delivering a keynote on: ORR's annual assessment of National Highways. 18 October at 15:10.
Over the summer you may have missed publication of our annual health and safety and consumer reports, and our annual assessments of Network Rail, National Highways and High Speed 1. You can read a summary of these five reports here.
Rail industry must meet challenges for a safer future
After 15 years in the role, Ian Prosser is retiring as His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Railways next year. In his blog, Ian discusses some of the key issues he hopes the industry will focus on over his last year.
Mitigating noise near the strategic road network
An estimated 187,000 people in England live in noise important areas with respect to road noise, with millions more affected. Senior performance analyst in Highways, Haydn Gill, explains ORR’s role around this issue and the available solutions in his blog.
This month we have published the following statistics:
- Train Operating Company key statistics - Annual (2022-23)
- Passenger rail performance: Cancellations data - 25 Jun 2023 - 22 Jul 2023 (Period 4)
- Passenger satisfaction with complaints handling - Annual (2022-23)