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Shadow transport secretary slams rail regulator’s spending record

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Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald has slammed the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) for its record on spending and saving forecasts.

Speaking at the Rail Industry Association (RIA) annual conference, McDonald said that the rail regulator lacks “teeth”, arguing that its role within the rail industry should have been included in the government’s “root and branch” review set to be chaired by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams.

In fact, McDonald argued that by ignoring the ORR and Network Rail the Williams review “isn’t really a review at all”.

“The ORR is brilliant in terms of safety and improving safety everywhere,” McDonald said. “However, it got it wrong terms of spending and saving.

“Across the whole of CP5, the ORR got it wrong and it should be held to account. We need a regulator with teeth.”

He added: “The government has no plans to review the regulation process under its review.

“I think the review will have little to no impact and I urge the government to act before the Williams review is completed.

“I am not sure the government review can even be called a review when it doesn’t consider Network Rail or the ORR.”

Earlier this month, Transport secretary Chris Grayling announced the terms of reference for the Williams review, adding that he expects rail industry reform to begin before the next General Election.

The rail review will consider issues such as the train operating franchise system and whether services provide value for money.

In response, a spokesperson for the ORR said that while the review does not directly look at the regulator it will have a significant bearing on it.

“The Rail Review is looking at the structure of the whole rail industry and this will clearly have implications for regulation,” a spokesperson said.

“The ORR will shortly be setting out our decision on what Network Rail will spend and deliver in the five years from April 2019 to improve performance for passengers and freight operators at the best value for taxpayers.”

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