Office of Rail and Road Update - June 2021

28 May 2021
John Larkinson
John Larkinson
Chief Executive
Cover Image
Platforms and track at Leeds station

Welcome to our June newsletter.

Good afternoon and welcome to June’s stakeholder newsletter. 

Last week, we welcomed the publication of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail and, over the coming months, ORR will continue to work closely with government and industry to facilitate reform and reshape rail for the future. Our independent oversight and assurance will be important in bringing transparency to decisions and ensuring that the new public body, Great British Railways, is held to account so that it works in the best interests of all users, funders and passengers. 

In the meantime, our day-to-day work continues.  

On 8 May, Hitachi Class 80X trains were grounded nationwide due to a significant safety issue. Cracks were appearing on parts of the train undercarriage, and while the cracking was on parts of the train used in the depot rather than in actual service, there was a small risk that material could become dislodged.

ORR responded swiftly, working with Hitachi and the train operators to understand the cracking issue, what was causing it and what the potential outcome could be if the cracking spread. We agreed limits on crack propagation (before the train should be withdrawn from service) and a daily inspection protocol to monitor the cracks and withdraw trains if they hit the agreed crack limits.

After rigorous safety checks involving ORR’s HM Railway Inspectorate, the train operators concerned began to reintroduce trains with a more regular service for passengers. 

Following this incident, ORR will carry out a lessons learned review, working with all parties involved. This will focus mainly on safety lessons but will also cover the impact on passengers from the withdrawal of trains from service.  We will publish this in due course. 


Top Stories

Network Rail’s delivery plans are broadly on track but raise risk funding concerns

ORR’s annual review of Network Rail’s progress in delivering against the five-year plan for Control Period 6 (CP6, which runs from 2019 to 2024) finds that its plans are broadly on track. But we have raised concerns about the remaining levels of risk funding, particularly in Scotland, and that continued focus is also needed to deliver renewal work. You can find more information on the annual review on our website.

Progress made but still work to be done on Network Rail’s North West and Central performance

In early 2020, we investigated Network Rail’s role in the poor performance of passenger and freight services in the North West & Central region, issuing recommendations in May 2020. Since then, we have continued to monitor the region’s progress in making improvements, and yesterday we issued a further update on this.

In short, while the region has addressed most of our recommendations, there are still six issues outstanding and we expect to see further progress and commitment from the region to address these in the coming months. We will continue to monitor progress on this.

ORR v Nexus fine £1.5m

In April, Tyne and Wear Metro operator, Nexus, was fined £1.5 million after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974., for failing to ensure the safety of its staff. This follows the death of a Nexus employee, John Bell, at the company’s South Gosforth depot in July 2014.

ORR’s investigation found that safety critical procedures were ignored - some for a substantial period after Mr Bell’s death.

Network Rail fined nearly £700,000 following ORR prosecution after serious fire accident.

Network Rail has been fined £696,666 after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, for failing to protect the safety of staff following an incident at Godinton substation in Kent at the end of 2018.

Delay compensation

In June 2020, we published an initial consultation on proposals for a delay compensation licence condition, with the aim of improving passenger access to delay compensation. Following responses to this consultation and extensive industry engagement, we have refined these proposals. We now welcome stakeholder comments on the wording of a proposed revised draft licence condition and delay compensation code of practice before proceeding further with implementation.



Mission Improbable

ORR's heritage railway safety team has helped make possible what appeared to be a dramatic action sequence in the upcoming Mission: Impossible film. Steve Turner, principal inspector of railways, explains more in his blog.

How train and station operators are meeting ORR’s accessibility requirements

ORR’s David Kimball reviews the progress made by train and station operators in meeting ORR’s accessibility requirements. He notes that, by the end of 2021, almost 30,000 passenger-facing staff will have undertaken disability awareness and equality training as part of requirements set out in our Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) Guidance to help improve journeys for those passengers with a disability.



The Rail & Road Pod – Episode 5: Reopening heritage railways safely

In this, the first of a two-part episode, we are joined by Ian Skinner, ORR’s Head of Non-Mainline and lead for Heritage Railway safety; Steve Oates, Chief Executive of the Heritage Railway Association; and Michael Proctor, Chairman of Aln Valley Railway in Northumberland. They discuss how heritage railways are safely returning for passengers and how one particular railway has delivered improvements over the last year.


Statistical Releases

This month we have published: