SRA Objectives

The Secretary of State for Transport has recently decided that the Authority is required to deliver the following objectives.

1. To work with the rail industry to secure progressive improvements in the performance and resilience of franchised rail services and improved levels of customer satisfaction with the quality of stations and services. The performance of franchised rail services is of great importance to passengers; the Authority should continue to keep that performance under review.

2. To manage passenger franchises actively so as to ensure that commitments on performance and investment are delivered and that the standard of service to passengers is improved in accordance with franchise terms.

3. To take opportunities to achieve improvements in the terms of existing passenger franchises, both in relation to performance and otherwise. Such opportunities may arise for instance when the Authority's approval is sought for change of franchise control.

4. To extend or replace existing passenger franchises in due time before they expire, or earlier where to do so is warranted by the potential benefits to passengers and other users. In considering proposals for the extension or replacement of existing franchises the Authority should have regard to the policies set out in the White Paper.

5. It is important that reliable data about franchise operators' performance and customer satisfaction levels should be published on a regular basis. The Authority is therefore to publish a bulletin describing, in terms that reflect the experience of passengers, the operating performance of franchise operators for the preceding period and their customer satisfaction levels.

6. To keep under review the level of regulated and unregulated fares. Current policy on regulated fares is supported through franchise agreements. Unregulated fares are in the first instance a matter for the commercial judgement of train operators, subject to general competition policy. The Authority's objectives, to pursue passenger growth and service quality, may be best served by retaining a wide range of fare options including for walk-on fares. On the other hand, unrestrained increases in unregulated fares, whether generally or for specific routes or journeys, may be deemed unwarranted or act as a disincentive to passenger growth. The Authority should accordingly keep the impact and extent of fares regulation under review, but should obtain the agreement of Ministers before making any change in current arrangements.

7. To agree with Network Rail, in consultation with DfT, a programme for taking on new work on the utilisation of network capacity. In the period before such a programme is agreed the Authority should continue with its existing capacity utilisation work, with a view to optimising the capacity of the network. The Authority should work closely with Network Rail and industry to identify measures to achieve this. Where this is not possible, for instance when physical locations are constrained, hard choices may have to be made to identify priorities where operators' aspirations may conflict with one another. The Authority's policy should be designed to inform operators and to assist ORR in its consideration of proposed access agreements.

8. To ensure that rolling stock is available so that train operators are able to accommodate expected passenger growth in appropriate modern standards of comfort and safety. This should be an important requirement in new or extended franchises. To facilitate the achievement of this objective, the Authority will need to continue vigorously to address any difficulties which affect the delivery of new trains by their manufacturers and their introduction into service by operators.

9. To continue to develop improved systems of support to freight operators, compatible with EU State Aid rules. The State Aid clearance for the existing Company Neutral Revenue Support scheme expires on 31 March 2007. The Authority should review the performance of this and the other existing schemes for freight funding (Track Access Grants and Freight Facilities Grants), to ensure that any future funding can be used to secure best value for money and encourage further development of the rail freight market.

The full report may be downloaded from http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_railways/documents/page/dft_railways_031941.hcsp