RAIL REGULATOR Tom Winsor this week unveiled plans for a team of asset reporters to monitor the country's railway infrastructure.
In the proposed set-up, which is copied from the water sector, auditors appointed by the Regulator will monitor different parts of the railway infrastructure such as track, structures, signalling, electrification, telecoms and stations.
Railtrack's performance in managing the infrastructure would be measured annually against a range of serviceability and condition 'monitoring targets' agreed with the network manager. Failure to meet these targets would result in automatic penalties.
The targets would be set within a new incentive-based economic environment designed to promote investment by Railtrack and align its interest with the public interest.
Winsor claimed that the system of access charges and performance regimes set up in 1995 had 'failed to deliver the improvements which were intended'.
He outlined his belief that a framework of incentives which would put emphasis on Railtrack's management to ensure regulatory targets are met and beaten was much better than the current 'command and enforcement' system which required persistent hostile action from the Regulator.
Winsor said it was up to Railtrack to decide how it delivered a safe, efficient railway, not the Regulator. Rather than setting targets that had to be enforced, he said, the Regulator's job was to 'establish a regime in which the company is given the means, the incentives and the will to take and implement decisions which protect and promote the public interest'.
He said: 'Incentive regulation involves providing the company with financial reasons for making commercial choices which are consistent with and promote the objectives of the public interest.'