Osborne Clarke’s guide to recent reports and reviews of the GB rail industry: a time to take stock

Written on 20 Jan 2016

Over the last six months a range of different reports have considered the rail industry from various angles: its functions, costs, structure, financing, performance and competitiveness.

The short term reasons for much of this work were the high profile delays and overspend in Network Rail’s enhancement programme, specified by government and approved by the Office of Rail Regulation in its periodic review (PR13) only two years earlier. In spite of the initial trigger, we believe that now is a good time to take stock of a rail industry which is two decades into its privatisation, and to consider what aspects are ripe for improvement.

This simple chronological guide is intended to help you keep track of the reports, reviews, policy projects and studies, recently published or concluded.

Report Aims Comments and Current Status Key dates and actions

1.

“Passenger rail services: competition policy project”

17 July 2015

(Competition and
Markets Authority)

The project considers
whether increasing competition in passenger rail services could lead to
better value for money and improve service quality.
Various models were
suggested, including increasing open access operations, overlapping franchise
routes and multiple operator franchises.
4 January 2016 – ORR published its evaluation of the CMA’s
proposed models.

25 January 2016 – Consultation on ORR’s evaluation closes

March 2016 – CMA to publish final policy document

2.

“System operation – a consultation on making better use of the
railway network”

13 August 2015

(Office of Rail
Regulation)

This consultation looks
at how Network Rail operates the rail network, how decisions by both Network
Rail and others are made about the use of the network, and its expansion over
time. ORR calls these activities “system operation”.
This consultation will
inform ORR’s preparation for the next periodic review of Network Rail (PR18)
covering control period 6, from 2019 to 2024.

The Shaw Review (see
below) is also taking into account this work on system operation

16 October 2015 – Consultation closed.

Conclusions on system
operation will be included in ORR’s work in the next periodic review.

The outcome of the Shaw
Review and the DfT review of rail regulation (see below) will also shape this
work.

3.

“The future shape and financing of Network Rail” – Scoping
Report of the Shaw Review

12 November 2015

(Department for
Transport / HM Treasury)

This two-part report,
led by Nicola Shaw, Chief Executive of High Speed 1, will develop
recommendations for the long term future shape and financing of Network Rail
for the ten year period from 2019 to 2029.
The published scoping
report provides the context for the current industry structure; explains the
perspectives from which the review will undertake its work: customer,
devolution and growth; and develops the options for reshaping and financing
Network Rail.
Winter 2015/6 – Consultation with industry and government is
being undertaken presently.

Spring 2016 – The detailed report with final proposals is
expected by the 2016 budget

4.

“Network Rail’s 2014 – 2019 investment programme”

16 November 2015

(Public Accounts
Committee)

The House of Commons
Committee of Public Accounts reviewed the planning and delivery of Network
Rail’s investment programme, looking at Network Rail, ORR and DfT.

The report was driven
by Network Rail’s reclassification as a public body accountable to
Parliament.

The Committee concluded
that the investment plans could not have been delivered within the budget
which DfT, Network Rail and ORR agreed two years ago in the periodic review
(PR13).

It recommended that for
control period 6 all parties should acknowledge any uncertainty in key
projects and how this will affect overall costs and schedule.

Criticised ORR’s review
of the efficiency of Network Rail’s costs, finding this work unconvincing and
lacking robust scrutiny.

No key dates, however
the recommendations will largely be addressed in the responses to the Bowe
Report, Shaw Review and the DfT review of rail regulation.

5.

“Replanning Network Rail’s investment programme” – Sir
Peter Hendy review

25 November 2015

(Network Rail)

Considered how Network
Rail can deliver its enhancement programme for Control Period 5 (2014 to
2019) to overcome high profile delays and overspend in the last two years.
The review concluded
that the vast majority of enhancement schemes can be delivered by 2019.

No schemes have been
cancelled. The remaining schemes will be delivered in control period 6.

2016 – Network Rail will raise £1.8bn through sales of non-core
assets (such as property and telecom network bandwidth).

6.

“Bowe Report into the planning of Network Rail’s Enhancements
Programme 2014-2019”

25 November 2015

(Department for
Transport)

Dame Collette Bowe’s
report investigated what went wrong in the planning of the enhancement
programme for control period 5 and made recommendations for effective future planning
and delivery.
Main recommendations:

–       Immediate
review of ORR’s role in enhancement planning;

–       Improved
governance arrangements at Network Rail and between it and DfT and ORR;

–       Bespoke
governance frameworks for major enhancements, as for Crossrail and Thameslink;
and

–       Strategic
approach to hiring the right people and skills development

December 2015 – DfT launched a review of ORR (see below)

7.

“Rail regulation: call for evidence”

10 December 2015

(Department for
Transport)

As for the Bowe Report,
this consultation invites evidence and views from all interested parties on
the effectiveness of the GB regulatory regime for the railways and on
possible modifications.
This review will have
particular regard to:

–       arrangements
for securing value for money from investment;

–       arrangements
for protecting the interests of rail users;

–       encouraging
an environment that supports private sector investment; and

–       the
changed context for investment after the reclassification of Network Rail to
the public sector.

15 January 2016 – Consultation closes

For consistency, this
consultation will run in parallel with the Shaw Review; therefore its conclusions
are expected in Spring 2016

If you want to find out more about any of these issues, please get in touch with one of our rail industry experts.