Office of Rail and Road Update - April 2021

31 March 2021
John Larkinson
John Larkinson
Chief Executive
Cover Image
Wheelchair user being assisted by a member of staff on a railway station platform

Welcome to our April newsletter 

Hello and welcome to April’s stakeholder newsletter. Today we have published our Business Plan for 2021-22

The last year has been tough for the whole rail industry, but as the economy begins to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and passenger numbers rise, our work to ensure improvements for passengers will become even more important. 

We will monitor how well companies are providing better assistance to passengers who need it, what impact improvements to customer information are having and whether the rail industry’s approach to handling customer complaints remains fit for purpose. 

We will also work with the rail industry to maintain, as far as possible, the gains made to train service performance during the pandemic.

We have also made gains in holding Network Rail to account in the last year: this will continue. We will focus on issues that ultimately affect all taxpayers and users – the need for Network Rail to further improve its efficiency while keeping its assets in good condition. Alongside this we will kick off a major new analysis (the 2023 Periodic Review) to inform what funding Network Rail should receive in the future and what it should deliver for that funding.

Our work on improving health and safety across the rail industry, with its emphasis on proactive inspection, will remain a high priority. In addition to significant areas of work which preceded the pandemic, such as track worker safety, we will build on new Covid-19 areas, such as the much higher levels of cleanliness expected on trains and at stations.

We will hold Highways England to account for the delivery of the outputs agreed with government, and our roads work will expand to include a more in-depth look at larger capital projects.

And, as ever, we will work constructively with the industries we oversee to deliver improvements in the public interest. Our funding for the year has been set by government and we will maintain a tight grip on costs and deliver within that funding.   

We will continue to ensure that ORR itself provides the most efficient service to taxpayers and the industry, also applying the best parts of what we have learned from working remotely for over a year as we return to spending more time in the office.

John Larkinson, 
Chief Executive

Top Stories

Tens of thousands of railway staff trained in understanding disabled people’s needs

By the end of 2021, almost 30,000 passenger-facing rail staff will have undertaken disability awareness and equality training as part of requirements set out in ORR’s Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) Guidance.

We welcome this progress made by all 24 train and station operators in its review of ATP commitments. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, most operators are broadly on track to meet their commitments by the end of July. For more information visit our website.

DB Cargo fined £200,000 for failing to protect safety of its workers

On 22 March 2021, DB Cargo was fined £200,000 after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act for failing to protect the safety of its workers following an incident at its Dollands Moor freight yard in 2018.

Terry Currie, then aged 43 and working as a shunter, suffered life changing injuries, including the amputation of his right arm, when a freight train collided with his vehicle on a level crossing at the yard on 4 September 2018.

The sentence was passed at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court, following a prosecution by ORR. You can find more information regarding the verdict on our website. 

A review into Network Rail’s electrification and power asset condition monitoring

When overhead lines come down, it can be hugely disruptive for passengers and freight services. It is important that Network Rail does all it can to prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place. The company itself recognises this, and is moving its maintenance regime away from ‘fail and fix’ to more of a ‘predict and prevent’ approach. 

To provide assurance for users and taxpayers that this change in strategy will be delivered and embedded by Network Rail effectively, we have carried out a ‘targeted assurance review’ of Network Rail’s capability in this area. This is the latest of a series of reviews we are undertaking to provide constructive challenge to Network Rail on ongoing or emerging engineering issues that could impact on what Network Rail delivers for passengers and freight customers.

Competition Act 1998 investigation

On 12 March 2021 we launched an enforcement case relating to the provision of certain training services in the passenger rail transport sector.

Call for evidence regarding DB Cargo UK Limited’s rolling stock disposal policy

On 29 March 2021, ORR wrote to the rail freight industry seeking out views regarding a proposal by DB Cargo UK Limited to discontinue its rolling stock disposal policy. The policy had been put in place in 1998 as a means of addressing competition concerns identified at the time about potential new entrants to the GB rail freight sector having fair access to locomotives. We have published our call for evidence letter on our website, which provides further background to DB Cargo UK’s proposal. The deadline for responses is 5pm on 26 April 2021.


Monitoring England’s strategic roads network

In this episode of the Rail and Road Podcast, ORR’s Feras Alshaker, Deputy Director for Roads and Stephen Bussell, Senior Highways Economist, explain how Highways England is monitored and the resulting benefits to road users.  

They are joined by Guy Dangerfield, Head of Strategy at Transport Focus, who delves into how Transport Focus gathers insights from road users to help Highways England deliver improvements.


Why I chose a career in engineering

Civil Engineer, Luisa Freitas, tells us why she chose a career in engineering and encourages others considering it to go for it.

Margaret Calvert and her impact

ORR’s, Lucy Charlton, celebrates International Women’s Day by looking at the impact Margaret Calvert had on our rail and road networks.

Statistical releases

Why I chose a career in engineering

This month we have published:

The next newsletter will be published following the elections in May.