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1997-07-10 ORR-002
Office of the Rail Regulator

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Regulator moves towards enforcement action over National Rail Enquiry Service


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Office of the Rail Regulator
ORR



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Office of the Rail Regulator

Regulator moves towards enforcement action over National Rail Enquiry Service
_______________________________________________________________


date
10 July 1997
source Office of the Rail Regulator
type Press release

note ORR/97/17


The rail regulator, John Swift QC, today announced the next step towards enforcement action against train operators as monitoring showed that the National Rail Enquiry Service (NRES) had failed to show required improvements to standards.

Announcing that a proposed enforcement order would be published tomorrow [[below]] Mr Swift said, "When I sought weekly information on performance standards from operators in June I warned them that, unless the awful performance figures for April and May proved to be only a temporary aberration, I would take the statutory steps towards enforcing their licence obligations. The required improvements have not been achieved. I am therefore publishing tomorrow a proposed enforcement order, giving the statutory 28 days for representations to be made to me. If, at the end of that 28 days, I am not satisfied that the service is properly providing, and will continue to provide, the services required, I will proceed with a final order. This will eventually lead to fines if performance continues to fail to meet the performance targets, which have been approved by the Franchising Director and me, and which all operators are obliged to meet as a condition of their licences.

Mr Swift continued, "Since transfer to a single national number the rail enquiry service has been greatly enhanced in terms of investment and call answering capability, and I was able to report favourably on its improved performance in my Annual Report for 1996-97, published today. However, it is a great disappointment to me that the improvements in service demonstrated towards the end of the reporting year have not been sustained. Indeed, the percentage of calls answered drastically deteriorated in April and has not shown sustained improvement since then. Even though more calls are being answered than a year ago, this still falls well below the level needed to meet current demand.

"I have noted the recent statement by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) that they are on target to reach the required standards within weeks. I hope that their statement proves to be true as that would achieve my objective of securing improvements for the travelling public. But I have yet to be convinced that these estimates are robust. I therefore have no alternative but to publish this order."

The performance targets for NRES are for 90% of all calls to be answered. Since full implementation of the national service on 0345 484950 in October last year performance had been steadily climbing towards this target. However, the percentage of calls answered in April this year was only 51%. In May the figure was 65%, and in June this dropped again to 55%.

If the regulator were to proceed with enforcement action, this would be in the form of fines divided between all operators in proportion to their contributions to NRES. The level of fines would be determined by use of a sliding scale so that very poor performance would be more heavily penalised then performance which just missed the target:

For each percentage point of calls not answered between 85% and below 90%, the penalty would be £50,000.
For each percentage point of calls not answered between 75% and below 85%, the penalty would be £100,000.
For each percentage point of calls not answered below 75%, the penalty would be £200,000.
The regulator expects to reach his decision as to whether to proceed with a final order as soon as possible after the period for representations ends on 8 August.

Notes to Editors

1. Tomorrow's notice is being published in accordance with section 56 of the Railways Act 1993. A copy is attached for information.



RAILWAYS ACT 1993
NATIONAL RAIL ENQUIRY SCHEME

Since April this year, the franchised train operators have failed to ensure that calls to the National Rail Enquiry Scheme (the 0345 484950 number) are answered to the standard required by their licence. The Regulator considers that they are likely to continue to fail to do so and that it is appropriate to impose sanctions for any continuing failure to comply. Consequently he is publishing a notice stating that he proposes to make an order, using his powers under Section 55 of the Railways Act 1993, against the franchised train operating companies.

The proposed order instructs the franchised train operators to ensure that 90% of calls made or up to 4.5 million calls in a 4 week period to the National Rail Enquiry Scheme are answered and to pay a penalty based on the percentage below 90% which are not answered.

Interested parties may make representations to the Regulator by writing to the address below by 8 August 1997.

The Regulator will take into account the representations made, and will not make the order if he is satisfied the National Rail Enquiry Scheme is properly providing and will continue to provide the services required with at least 90% of calls answered. The Regulator expects to be able to reach a decision as soon as possible after 8 August.

Section 56 - Notice of Proposed Enforcement Order

1. Under section 56 of the Railways Act 1993 ("the Act") I give notice that I propose to make a final order in respect of each Train Operating Company which is a franchise operator ("TOC"). The effect of the order will be that the TOCs will be required to ensure that, under the ATOC National Rail Enquiry Scheme ("NRES"), at least 90% of calls made to its rail enquiry number (0345 484950) are answered. For the purpose of this notice and the proposed order 4.5 million calls answered shall be deemed to be the maximum number of calls to be answered which are necessary to satisfy the 90% target in each 4 week period ("the target"). If less than the target level of calls is answered, the TOCs collectively will be liable to a monetary penalty of an amount determined by the percentage of calls not answered. For each percentage point of calls not answered between 85% and below 90%, the penalty shall be £50,000, for each percentage point of calls not answered between 75% and below 85%, the penalty shall be £100,000, and for each percentage point of calls not answered below 75% the penalty shall be £200,000. Liability to pay any penalty payable will be divided amongst the TOCs in accordance with their contributions to NRES.

2. I propose to make this order:

(a) to secure compliance with condition 7.1(b) of each TOC's passenger licence;

(b) with effect from 17 August 1997; and

(c) unless I am satisfied that the TOCs have agreed to and are taking appropriate steps to ensure that, otherwise than because of an event of force majeure, in each four week period the target level of calls is answered. In deciding whether to make the order I shall consider any representations or objections made to me.

3. I am of the opinion that each TOC has contravened its licence condition, and is likely to continue to do so, because:

(a) condition 7.1(b) of each TOC's passenger licence requires it to be a party to, and comply with, arrangements relating to the operation of a telephone enquiry bureau relating to railway passenger services;

(b) the NRES agreement, as approved by me on 11 June 1996, is the arrangement relating to the operation of a telephone enquiry bureau for the purpose of that licence condition;

(c) under the NRES agreement, each TOC agreed that its intention is that calls received by the scheme are answered in accordance with the performance standards set out in the NRES agreement, which includes a requirement that 90% of calls received are answered and that performance plans meeting those standards would be implemented;

(d) as required under the NRES agreement, the Association of Train Operating Companies ("ATOC") submitted to me a business plan, agreed to by each TOC, which stated that NRES would have sufficient capacity from 1 April 1997 to answer calls in accordance with the performance standards of the scheme, on the basis of 58.6 million calls being answered in the year commencing 1 April 1997;

(e) ATOC reported that for first three 4 week periods of the year commencing 1 April 1997 51% of calls were answered in period 1, 65% of calls were answered in period 2, 55% of calls were answered in period 3 and 66% of calls were answered in the first two weeks of period 4;

(f) I have concluded that each of the TOCs did not ensure that the business plan was implemented in such a way as to ensure that the performance standards of NRES were achieved; and

(g) ATOC has indicated that plans are in place to ensure that calls will be answered in accordance with the NRES performance standards by 1 August 1997, but that those plans are still to be implemented and it is not certain that those plans even if implemented will ensure that those performance standards will be met.

4. Although, for the purposes of the proposed order, I have allowed for a maximum number of calls that shall be answered in each 4 week period to be 4.5 million calls, such an allowance does not relieve the TOCs from ensuring that the total number of calls answered over the year shall be 90% of calls made, with a maximum of 58.6 million calls required to be answered.

5. Representations or objections with respect to the proposed order may be made to me by not later than 8 August 1997. They should be sent to Dee Cotgrove, Office of the Rail Regulator, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn London EC1N 2ST. Copies of the proposed order may be obtained free of charge from that address or by telephoning 0171 282 2074.

John Swift
11 July 1997
Rail Regulator


Railhub Archive ::: 1997-07-10 ORR-002





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