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Railhub Archive
1997-09-16 ORR-001
Office of the Rail Regulator


Train operators fined for leaving too many telephone enquiries unanswered

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National Rail Enquiries Service
Office of the Rail Regulator

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Office of the Rail Regulator

Train operators fined for leaving too many telephone enquiries unanswered

16 September 1997
source Office of the Rail Regulator
type Press release

note ORR/97/22

The Rail Regulator, John Swift QC, today announced fines of £250,000 against train operators for failing to answer 15% of telephone enquiries to the National Rail Enquiry Service over the period 17 August to 14 September. The 25 passenger train operating companies will each have one month to pay their share of the fine. They will continue to be liable to pay fines until the Regulator is satisfied that they are sustaining consistent achievement of at least 90% of calls answered.

Mr Swift said, "When I issued a final order on 14 August it was in the hope that this would give operators the incentive to reach performance targets and provide passengers with the minimum service they have a right to expect. It appears to have worked to some extent, with the month on month performance up from 82% to 85%, but standards are still not good enough. Operators may have reached the target over the last week but it is consistent performance which counts, and the last week's performance contrasts with the first week of this reporting period when the service could only answer 75% of calls.

"So long as my order remains in place - and it will stay in place until I am satisfied that the 90% target is being exceeded consistently and that I can depend upon it to continue to do so - fines for poor performance will follow automatically. On current performance the sliding scale I announced in July means a fine of £250,000. My Office is therefore writing to the individual companies to inform them of the amount they must each pay."

Mr Swift went on to point out that answering at least 90% of calls was not the end of the story for the National Rail Enquiry Service. "The 90% target is a minimum only, and it is in the industry's own interest to maximise the number of calls answered and to cater for variations in demand. Moreover, we will be looking to them next to achieve their secondary target - that 95% of all calls answered should be answered within 30 seconds. We will also be looking to improve the quality of information provided to passengers. I have already made clear that if progress is not made quickly I am ready to consider imposing additional obligations and sanctions."

Notes to Editors

1. On 24 June (Press Notice ORR/97/14) the Regulator began to monitor performance weekly and warned that performance would have to improve dramatically if operators were to avoid enforcement action. On 11 July (Press Notice ORR/97/17) he published a proposed enforcement order, giving the statutory 28 days for representations to be made. This notice period expired on 8 August and on 14 August he issued a final order under section 55 of the Railways Act 1993 (Press Notice ORR/97/20).

2. The sliding scale for fines announced in July ensured that very poor performance would be more heavily penalised than performance which just missed the target:

For each percentage point (or part thereof) of calls not answered between 85% and below 90%, the penalty would be £50,000.
For each percentage point (or part thereof) of calls not answered between 75% and below 85%, the penalty would be £100,000.
For each percentage point (or part thereof) of calls not answered below 75%, the penalty would be £200,000.
3. The individual operator's share of the fine will be in the same proportion as their contribution to the costs of the National Rail Enquiry Service.

4. Performance figures since April have been: April 51%; May 65%; June 55%; July 71%; August 82%; September 85%.

Railhub Archive ::: 1997-09-16 ORR-001


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