ORR seeks expanded role

29 July 2008

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) thinks it should have more of a role in decisions like the electrification of the railway network and increasing capacity on trains.


The revelation by ORR chairman Chris Bolt and chief executive Bill Emery comes in the consultation launched on Monday to examine the regulator’s strategy for the next five years. The ORR has called for the industry to step up the pace in ensuring long term improvements are made in order to meet the ‘growing challenges and demands of the railway in the future’.


The ORR proposes that it should ‘play a bigger role in identifying the longer-term issues and pressing the industry and government to address them in timely and innovative ways. ‘For instance, we could do more to facilitate some of the key decisions that will be needed in the next few years over issues such as new signalling and control systems; electrification; and the need for extra capacity to relieve an increasingly full network.’


The regulators are also looking at a role in examining fare structures and ‘complementing the role of Passenger Focus and the role of government as the provider of subsidy for the railways’.


ASLEF is less than impressed with the proposals because it believes that the expanded role suggested by the ORR would take responsibilities – and accountability - away from the Department for Transport (DfT).


‘We have two major concerns,’ says general secretary Keith Norman. ‘We fear the loss of political accountability in the important strategic decisions that need to be made in rail – and we don’t want to encourage the ‘buck-passing’ culture that has existed within the DfT.’

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