Office of Rail and Road chief executive Joanna Whittington reflects on her first year
At the end of 2017, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2018 – and tell us what they cannot do Christmas without
What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?
At the Office of Rail and Road, we protect the interests of rail and road users focusing on improvements in safety, value and performance – not an easy job but a very important one. To do this, we rely on the capability, knowledge and integrity of the ORR staff, which is why on a personal basis I was very proud to be appointed chief executive in February.
This year work on determining the funding settlement for Network Rail to operate, maintain and renew the rail network for the next five year control period has been gearing up.
The transport secretary initially delayed his decision in July on funding which allowed time for us to provide additional analysis on whether Network Rail could spend the funding efficiently. We worked intensively across Whitehall, with industry and with Network Rail over the summer.
The agreed funding package announced explicitly recognised our advice to increase the volume of renewals work, protecting the interests of future as well as current rail users. This is only the first step in the process though. From here, we will scrutinise Network Rail’s plans and challenge them to improve efficiency from the start.
What are your organisation’s top priorities in the year ahead?
ORR has a broad mandate. Our work monitoring Highways England will enter its fourth year, as government prepares the way for its second five-year funding settlement. We will continue to prioritise improvements to the service rail passengers receive in key areas such as complaints handling and accessibility.
But as the health and safety regulator for the rail industry, our top priority will always be ensuring that those responsible for running Britain’s railways do so in a way which is safe for passengers, the public and their workforce. To do this, our inspectors will spend the majority of their time in the field engaging with the industry, supporting its efforts to reduce risk and taking enforcement action where necessary.
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