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1999-07-20 ORR-001
Office of the Rail Regulator

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Rail Regulator orders train companies to publish accurate statistics


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Office of the Rail Regulator
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Office of the Rail Regulator

Rail Regulator orders train companies to publish accurate statistics
_______________________________________________________________


date
20 July 1999
source Office of the Rail Regulator
type Press release

note ORR/99/28


The Rail Regulator, Tom Winsor, has ordered the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) to publish accurate performance statistics for the National Rail Enquiry Scheme (NRES) - the telephone service that provides the public with rail travel information. Tom Winsor has called for performance statistics to be accurate and meaningful.

In a letter to George Muir, Director General of the Association of Train Operating Companies, Tom Winsor has said he has decided not to lift the enforcement order currently in place concerning the answering of calls made to the National Rail Enquiry Scheme, and he has insisted that from now on licence holders must publish performance statistics which accurately reflect their licence standards.

A recent ORR audit of the NRES performance figures, published by ATOC since 1997, has revealed that callers who ring off after trying to get through for less than thirty seconds have been excluded from the statistics. The train operators’ licence conditions require NRES to answer 90% of all calls received, regardless of the duration of the ringing time. The percentage of calls answered by the scheme for April was 92.88%, May 90.15% and for June 90.5%.

Commenting on this practice, Tom Winsor said: "Looking at NRES’s recent performance, the service has come within a whisker of incurring a heavy penalty. A number dialled is a service required, and I am not prepared to accept statistics adjusted to accommodate some hazy theory that callers who persist for less than half a minute may have changed their mind or may have called a wrong number."



Notes for editors:

1. NRES is currently the subject of an enforcement order, imposed by the Rail Regulator on 4 December 1998, for failing to meet their performance target of answering more than 90% of telephone enquiries made to the service.

2. Under this order, operators face a penalty of £500,000 for any shortfall down to 85% of telephone calls answered, and a second penalty of £500,000 for any further shortfall below that percentage figure. However, no penalty will be payable if more than 4.6M calls are answered in a month.

3. This year’s actual performance figures (i.e. including calls abandoned within 30 seconds) are as follows: January 96.05%, February 92.63%, March 91.00%, April 92.88%, May 90.15%, June 90.5%.

4. A copy of the letter to George Muir is attached.



PRESS ENQUIRIES: ORR Press Office - 0171 282 2007/2002
Out of office hours - 0777 5814516 or 01727 860437



Text of letter to George Muir

20 July 1999



George Muir Esq
Director General
Association of Train Operating Companies
3rd Floor, 40 Bernard Street
London
WC1N 1BY

Thank you for your letter of yesterday evening asking for the lifting of the current enforcement order concerning the answering of calls made to the National Rail Enquiry Scheme. The purposes of this letter are (a) to inform you of my decision not to lift the current enforcement order and (b) to insist that from now onwards licence holders publish performance statistics which accurately reflect their licence standards.

As you say, the enforcement order is clear. It relates directly to the licence standard which requires that of all calls made to NRES, 90% of them must be answered. Calls abandoned within 30 seconds are not excluded from the licence standard, and they are not excluded from the terms of the enforcement order.

With respect to the publishing of performance statistics, ATOC's past practice has been to exclude calls abandoned within 30 seconds. This is something which was brought to our attention by the auditors we appointed to review NRES's figures. It has come up only in the course of that audit, which was carried out since the last published figures. I must therefore insist that future publishing is on the correct basis, that is including calls abandoned within 30 seconds.

You have also indicated that you wish to continue to publish figures which exclude calls not answered within 30 seconds. I am against that. It is essential that licence holders publish statistics which are consistent with the licence standard because passengers have a right to know how well train operators perform against their public interest obligations. Accordingly any figures you publish should clearly indicate the percentage of all calls made which have been answered. Once you start publishing on the correct basis, you must of course continue to publish on the correct basis.

The correct figures for NRES's performance in April, May and June 1999 are 92.88%, 90.15% and 90.5%. This shows that the licence holders' performance is very close to the minimum 90% standard. In the circumstances, I cannot agree that it is in the public interest that the enforcement order is lifted. It will therefore remain in place.

This letter will be published, with the enclosed press notice, at 16.30 today.

TOM WINSOR


Railhub Archive ::: 1999-07-20 ORR-001





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