Office of Rail and Road

Office of Rail and Road
Welsh: Swyddfa Rheoleiddio'r Rheilffyrdd
Non-ministerial government department overview
Formed 5 July 2004
Preceding Non-ministerial government department
  • Rail Regulator
Jurisdiction Great Britain
Headquarters 1 Kemble Street, London, WC2B 4AN
Employees 280
Annual budget £30 million[1]
Non-ministerial government department executives
  • Stephen Glaister, Chair
  • Joanna Whittington, Chief Executive

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) protects the interests of rail and road users, improving the safety, value and performance of railways and roads today and in the future.

The ORR is responsible for ensuring that railway operators comply with health and safety law. The ORR regulates Network Rail’s activities and funding requirements, regulates access to the railway network, licenses the operators of railway assets and publishes rail statistics. The ORR is the competition authority for the railways and they enforce consumer protection law in relation to the railway.

The ORR is also responsible for monitoring Highways England's management of the strategic road network – the motorways and main 'A' roads in England.

As a non-ministerial government department it is operationally independent of central government.

What ORR Does

The ORR's main functions are:

Rail safety

The ORR regulates health and safety for the entire mainline rail network in Britain, as well as London Underground, light rail, trams and the heritage sector. It is the ORR's responsibility to ensure that those responsible make Britain's railways safe for passengers and provide a safe place for staff to work.

The ORR has a team of more than 100 rail health and safety inspectors and professionals who are respected across the network and have significant powers of enforcement. Their remit is to ensure that the railway is safe, and is kept safe, at a reasonably practicable cost.

The UK is amongst the safest railways in Europe. Fewer passengers are currently killed or seriously injured on our railway than at any time in recent decades. Safety of the workforce and of members of the public interacting with the railway is also important. And while safety is improving in most areas, there is still room for improvement.

Network Rail

The ORR regulates Network Rail, holding it to account for delivering high levels of performance and service, as well as good value for money – for passengers, the freight industry and taxpayers.


The ORR regulates the High Speed 1 line between St Pancras and the Channel Tunnel. This line is operated by HS1 Ltd, and is separate to the rest of the national railway network operated by Network Rail, but the ORR regulates it in much the same way. This includes holding HS1 to account for its performance, service and value for money for passengers and the freight industry.

Fair access and fair treatment

A primary role for the ORR is to enforce consumer law and compliance with the conditions contained in Network Rail’s and train operators’ licences, to help ensure that all rail users get the service to which they are entitled.


Passengers at the heart of our railways – and the ORR has a big part to play as the independent regulator. The ORR wants to see a railway that balances the interests of investors, customers, taxpayers and the industry. Although the ORR does not regulate fares, ensuring that passengers get a safe, high-performing service is extremely important.

Highways England

The ORR is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the performance and efficiency of Highways England (which was previously the Highways Agency) and is delivering this through its Highways function.

Highways England maintains, renews, operates and improves the strategic road network – the motorways and main 'A' roads in England.

The ORR holds Highways England to account for its management of the strategic road network – including delivery of performance and efficiency. They also advise the UK Government on the levels of funding and performance requirements for future road periods to help frame challenging and deliverable performance and efficiency requirements.

Strategic objectives

A safer railway: Protecting passengers, the workforce and the travelling public is at the heart of what the ORR does. They will continue to hold industry to account to deliver safety improvements, focusing especially on level crossings, the train-to-platform gap, and through overseeing better design at the outset.

Better customer service: The ORR’s response to the recent ‘super-complaint’ highlights more which can be done to deliver a better deal for passengers in respect of compensation for delays. The ORR will monitor operators’ progress closely on complaints handling, on provision for disabled passengers, and on information provided during disruptions.

Value for money from the railway: The rail network is in the middle of a challenging, multibillion-pound investment programme. The ORR wants to see the infrastructure owner, train operator and freight company working together to improve efficiency and boost value for money for taxpayers, fare payers and funders. They will continue to monitor and report on Network Rail’s performance to help ensure that it operates as a world-class, efficient asset management company.

Better highways: Highways England now has a £15bn, five-year plan with eight specific targets. The role of the ORR is to monitor its progress on this. These targets include a 40% reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured by 2020; a road user satisfaction score of 90% by March 2017; clearing 85% of incidents within an hour; and making £1.2 billion of savings on capital expenditure.

Promoting a dynamic and commercially sustainable rail sector: The ORR’s vision for the future will be set out in our first core document outlining the next periodic review, 'PR18'.

Building on the recommendations of the Shaw review, PR18 will consider options for route based regulation, underpinned by a strong system operator and for an effective charging and incentives regime for Network Rail as the network monopoly.

High performing regulation: Structural and funding changes shaping both the rail and road networks mean that a high performing regulator is more vital than ever. The ORR is continually developing their professional expertise to ensure maximum, positive impact. Working across rail and road in a joined up manner is supporting also them in developing and applying proportionate, risk-based regulation.

Statutory duties

In carrying out its railway functions, the ORR must discharge its statutory duties, which are its formal objectives. These are laid down in section 4 of the Railways Act 1993, and include the protection of the interests of users and the promotion of competition, efficiency and economy in the provision of railway services.

ORR’s duties as the Monitor for Highways England are set out in section 12 of the Infrastructure Act 2015. These require that ORR must exercise its functions in the way it considers most likely to promote the performance and efficiency of Highways England.

Public law obligations

Like other public authorities, the ORR must comply with the rules of administrative law, and is amenable to judicial review, so it must act lawfully, rationally, proportionately and in accordance with the relevant rules of procedure. Although operationally independent of central government as a non-ministerial government department, it is still covered by legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act 2000.


All members of the ORR board are appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport for a fixed term of up to five years. The current ORR Chair is Professor Stephen Glaister CBE and the Chief Executive Officer is Joanna Whittington, both appointed in January 2016 on an interim basis.

The ORR employs approximately 280 people, with offices in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester and York.


The ORR is a data-driven and evidence-based organisation. They lead the collection, validation, analysis and dissemination of data from across the rail industry and are the main provider of railway industry statistics in Britain.

The ORR publishes a range of statistics about railway performance, rail usage and safety – to support performance evaluation, analysis and decision-making for the railway industry. It produces usage statistics for each station.

History of ORR

The ORR was established as the Office of Rail Regulation on 5 July 2004 by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, replacing the Rail Regulator. It became the Office of Rail and Road on 16 October 2015 following ORR's appointment as Monitor for Highways England under the Infrastructure Act 2015.

See also


  1. Who we are, Office of Rail Regulation, 28 January 2014, retrieved 11 March 2014
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