Friday 20 May 2022


< back | archive | business | images | industry | knowledge | library | pocketbook | subscribe | about | log on | home

rail unveiled

::: RMT threatens national industrial action over service cuts

who does what: the industry matrix

The railway industry consists of many organisations. Some run the trains or maintain the track. There are also government bodies and third party agencies of various kinds.

How do they all fit together?

How do they all fit together?

1. Train operators

Train operating companies [TOCs] are at the heart of the business. Without them, after all, nothing would move.

One major sector is formed by the franchised passenger operators. They are profit-making companies and closely bound by detailed contracts with the government to run specified services on named routes. Their contracts are limited-life, although they are sometimes extended. They manage most National Rail stations, which they lease from Network Rail. They are responsible for minor maintenance of the stations they manage.

A few passenger operators are Ďopen accessí. They have no government contracts, but also lack the financial umbrella that franchises offer. They run comparatively few trains and do not manage stations.

Freight operators [FOCs] are separate, and nearly all are wholly in the private sector, without government franchises or support. There is one exception: Direct Rail Services was formed to carry nuclear fuel, and is owned by the public sector. It also carries other freight and hires out some of its trains.

2. Network Rail

A public sector body which owns the railway (tracks, stations, signals and structures) and compiles the national timetable. Any operator needs permission to run on Network Rail infrastructure. Network Rail is not responsible for London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, Tyne & Wear Metro, Glasgow Subway, Northern Ireland Railways, tramways or privately-owned railways, such as Ďheritageí lines. Network Railís customers are train operators Ė not railway users. NR owns all National Rail stations, but most are let to franchised operators. A small number (fewer than 20) are managed directly by Network Rail. The Network Rail-managed stations are among the largest and busiest, such as London Euston or Glasgow Central.

3. Department for Transport

Government department, responsible for railway policy (including fares), franchise awards and management, and supervision of Network Rail (shared with ORR; see below). Includes the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (below).

4. Office of Rail and Road

Non-departmental government body. Regulates the wider railway industry, particularly in respect of access rights (essentially, whether an operator can be permitted to serve an additional route or run more trains, or indeed to run at all). Also monitors Network Rail's budgets and performance and compiles railway statistics. HM Railway Inspectors, who form a division of the ORR, monitor safety on all railways in Britain and can bring prosecutions. HMRIís former responsibility for compiling accident reports is now the task of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (below).

5. Rail Accident Investigation Branch

Part of the Department for Transport (above). Compiles accident reports and makes recommendations to improve safety where necessary. Does not attempt to attribute responsibility or blame, and therefore does not prosecute for safety breaches, which is the responsibility of the ORR (above).

6. Rail Delivery Group

An industry-sponsored body which includes train operators and Network Rail. Co-ordinates and provides the public face of the industry, and merged with ATOC (see 17 below) on 24 October 2016. As a result, the RDG now also divides revenue between the different operators (Rail Settlement Plan), runs National Rail Enquiries and manages staff travel arrangements.

7. Rail Freight Group

The Rail Freight Group is an industry sponsored body which campaigns on behalf of freight operators.

8. Rail Supply Group

Broadly the equivalent of the Rail Delivery Group for companies in the railway supply chain, which are not represented on the RDG.

9. National Skills Academy Rail

Industry body set up in 2010 to encourage and co-ordinate training in the railway industry. It does not provide training itself, but links employers with specialist training providers.

10. RSSB

An industry-sponsored body which was formerly the Rail Safety and Standards Board and originally a division of Railtrack (below), the RSSB focuses on safety matters, carries out research and compiles Railway Group Standards, which lay down guidelines and requirements.

11. Transport Focus and London TravelWatch

Consumer bodies set up by Act of Parliament to represent transport users. London TravelWatch broadly covers Greater London, and Transport Focus deals with journeys in the rest of Britain. Neither body will consider a complaint until the operator involved has been given a chance to resolve any difficulty directly with the complainant.

12. Rolling Stock Leasing Companies (ROSCos)

Private sector finance houses which order, own and lease rolling stock to operators, usually for the duration of a passenger franchise.

13. Integrated Transport Authorities and Passenger Transport Executives

Local government bodies created by the Transport Act 1968 (ITAs were originally Passenger Transport Authorities) to co-ordinate transport in large cities outside London. In some cases they have been replaced by other organisations, such as the West Midlands ITA and PTE (Centro), which were succeeded by the West Midlands Combined Authority and TfWM (Transport for West Midlands) in June 2016.

14. Supply chain bodies

Several organisations have been created to represent members of the rail supply chain, including the Railway Industry Association, Rail Alliance and Rail Forum East Midlands.

15. Association of Community Rail Partnerships

Largely voluntary organisation which exists to encourage and develop local lines. It receives a DfT grant which supports a head office in West Yorkshire and a small number of salaried staff. Some local authorities fund a Rail Officer (or equivalent) to manage individual Community Rail Partnerships in their areas.

16. Other campaigning groups

These include the Campaign for Better Transport (originally Transport 2000) and Railfuture (previously the Railway Development Society). There are also many local rail usersí groups representing passengers on individual routes.

17. Former railway organisations

British Railways Board (state corporation managing the nationalised railway, 1963-1997). Later became BR (Residuary) Ltd and was wound up in 2013.

British Transport Commission (state corporation responsible for [most] railways and also canals, road haulage and docks from 1 January 1948 under the Transport Act 1947). Also owned many bus companies, partly because the Commission had taken over the railway shareholdings in them and also because some private groups voluntarily sold their interests to the BTC. It ran the railways via a subsidiary Railway Executive until 1953 and then took over direct management, after the Transport Act 1953 had changed the Commissionís structure and returned road haulage to the private sector. The Commission was wound up by the Transport Act 1962 and ceased functioning on 1 January 1963 when various boards took over, including the British Railways Board.

Office of Passenger Rail Franchising [OPRAF] (original manager of franchise awards: succeeded by Strategic Rail Authority in 2000).

Railtrack (original infrastructure manager under privatisation: created 1994 and became Stock Exchange listed in 1996. Placed in Railway Administration 2001 and succeeded by Network Rail 2002).

Office of Rail Regulation (succeeded Office of the Rail Regulator 2004, became Office of Rail and Road 2014).

Office of the Rail Regulator (created to regulate the industry 1994; replaced by Office of Rail Regulation 2004).

Strategic Rail Authority (created in shadow form 1999 to manage franchises and prepare plans for developing the railway network. Became statutory body 2000, wound up 2006). Franchising functions were transferred to Department for Transport; long-term planning to Network Rail.

The Association of Train Operating Companies existed between 1995 and 2016. ATOC was created to represent train operators and also managed industry functions such as sharing out revenue between passenger operators, running National Rail Enquiries and issuing staff travel passes. The Rail Delivery Group (see 6 above) took over the media and public relations functions of ATOC in 2012 and its other responsibilities on 24 October 2016, when the title ATOC was abolished.

are the railways really privatised?
open access
railfreight operators
what is a franchise?
why donít operators buy more trains?


Not logged on


77 stories

191 documents

14 entries

1 document