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Off the rails


Professor Hamilton's letter (NCE 11 November) seems to have missed the point(s) and gone down the wrong track.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has not 'instigated a drive to reduce consultants' margins' or targeted the wrong issues.

ORR has provided funding for significant increases in activity in the key areas of Network Rail's expenditure - operation, maintenance and renewal. This offers the stability and certainty about future spending plans that the industry rightly demands.

Neither have we specifically asked Network Rail to achieve efficiencies in the costs of consultants.

Nobody would dispute that providing 'a safe service is a top priority', but his assertion that 'saving money is of very little relevance' is dangerous nonsense.

Industry costs have spiralled to the extent that the very affordability of Britain's railway is being questioned. So yes, the Regulator has set tough efficiency targets, because ORR believes there is great scope for driving out waste and inefficiency without compromising the industry's high safety standards.

Failure to meet this challenge and drive down costs will inevitably increase the pressure to spend less on the railway by having less of a railway. Is that the kind of safe service the Professor has in mind?

Colin Brading (M), head of infrastructure and asset management, Office of Rail Regulation, Colin.Brading@orr. gsi. gov. uk

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