Office of Rail Regulation

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The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) was established on 5 July 2004 under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003. Prior to this, regulation was carried out by The Office of the Rail Regulator.

Since April 2006, HM Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) has been part of ORR.

ORR regulates a number of other railway operations in addition to the Network Rail system: underground railways, light railways, tramways and minor railways (Heritage railways)

ORR's key roles are:

  • to ensure that Network Rail manages the network efficiently and in a way that meets the needs of its users;
  • to encourage continuous improvement in health and safety performance;
  • to secure compliance with relevant health and safety law, including taking enforcement action as necessary;
  • to develop policy and enhance relevant railway health and safety legislation; and
  • responsible for licensing operators of railway assets, setting the terms for access by operators to the network and other railway facilities, and enforcing competition law in the rail sector.

Railway operations are regulated under two key pieces of legislation. The Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2005 (the Regulations) cover railway undertakings providing passenger and/or freight goods services, and the Railways Act 1993 (as amended) (the Act) provides for operators of other passenger and non-passenger trains, stations, networks and light maintenance depots.

The consumption of railway network capacity is regulated through the regime for approving access contracts, similarly established by the Act and provided for under the Regulations.

All current licences can be viewed or downloaded from the ORR website.

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