DfT supports NR accountability proposals
The Department for Transport shares the Office of Rail and Road’s view that Network Rail’s Route Supervisory Boards are not yet operating in a “satisfactory manner”.
The opinion was voiced in the DfT’s response to the regulator’s Periodic Review 2018 draft determination. It describes improvements in communication between NR and train operators as “critically important”, although it adds that it wants to contribute to the ORR’s approach to scorecards in Control Period 6 (CP6) - to reflect the role of government as a major customer and as a shareholder in NR - before final decisions are made.
The ORR’s desire for strong regulation of NR’s System Operator function is also supported by the DfT, including an increase in resources in this area. The Department says that “improving the effectiveness of the System Operator will be an important factor in avoiding any future repeat” of recent timetabling problems.
However, concern is expressed that the Freight and National Passenger Operator route does not have sufficient power to protect the interests of the freight industry, and in particular how it ensures that other parts of NR deliver for freight.
Another area of concern is the balance of responsibility between NR routes, the System Operator and the Infrastructure Projects division.
The DfT wants the ORR to provide further and continued focus on how its relationship works. It also wants the ORR to become involved in a programme of work with it and NR to improve the delivery of enhancements and renewals examining the clarity of roles and accountabilities.
Separate monitoring of the performance of each of NR’s routes and its central functions is strongly supported, as is a move towards using leading indicators of performance in the ORR’s monitoring of NR. Proposals to use more targeted enforcement action on individual routes or functions, and the intention to use more ‘reputational incentives’ such as public hearings, are also supported by the DfT.