The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) is the independent safety and economic regulator for Britain’s railways. It is responsible for ensuring that railway operators comply with health and safety law. ORR is also the competition authority for the railways and enforces consumer protection law in relation to the railway.

Meeting Date: 15 March 2017

Matters Discussed:

The Victims’ Commissioner (VC) and the Chair of the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) met on 15 March to discuss how the ORR carry out their obligations to victims as set out in the Victims’ Code of Practice.

The Chair explained that the ORR is the government department with responsibility, amongst other things, for enforcing health and safety law on Britain’s railways. This work includes the investigation of certain types of railway incident and, where appropriate, taking enforcement action against duty holders.

Where an investigation reveals breaches of legal duties, typically under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, and where personal harm or bereavement results, the ORR will always seek to communicate sensitively with victims in accordance with the Victims’ Code of Practice.

In the event of a serious incident, ORR will write to victims and enclose guidance explaining its role in an investigation, its arrangements for keeping victims informed about progress and decisions and, when prosecution is proposed, details of how the impact on victims can be taken into account by the court. Legal arrangements in England and Wales differ slightly from those in Scotland, but all should expect similar levels of thoughtful service.

When the VC asked for specifics of the support offered to victims, the Chair advised that the ORR had a standard information pack that would be issued to victims. It had also drafted and circulated to all staff internal guidance on supporting victims. The VC was pleased to note that victims would always be allocated a named inspector who would act as the single point of contact. This accorded with best practice and would be appreciated by victims.

The Chair reported that the number of victims who were the responsibility of the ORR were very few and this assisted in giving them a bespoke service.

There was a further discussion about the support given to drivers who had witnessed suicides on the track. There was also a discussion about deaths arising from trespass onto the rail tracks and safety around level crossings.

The VC and the Chair agreed that in future the ORR would provide the VC with a written annual update on its work in respect of the Victims’ Code of Practice and that this would be placed onto the VC website.