The Challenge

While the majority of rail services are provided by franchised operators, Open Access Operators (OAOs) can to seek operate their own services on a commercial basis where there is available capacity on the network. The Office of Rail and Road grant track access rights to OAOs, who are required to demonstrate that their services are not primarily abstracting from existing franchised operators, and that their operations represent good value for money for the taxpayer. Where there are competing applications, ORR determine which operator(s) should be given track access rights.

This was the situation on the East Coast Main Line where the recently appointed franchised operator was seeking additional train paths at the same time as two OAOs were seeking to introduce new services. ORR had appointed consultants to model the impacts of the competing applications to inform its determination. Given the importance of this decision, the modelling needed to be recognised as robust by the competing applicants and other stakeholders.

SYSTRA's Role

SYSTRA were appointed by ORR to undertake an independent audit and model review of the modelling suite to provide assurance to stakeholders that it was robust and fit for purpose. This required a two-pronged approach, involving a ‘top-down’ review of methodology, and a ‘bottom-up’ detailed review of model calculations to ensure that the methodology was being correctly implemented. For the top-down review we drew upon our expertise in rail Revenue Modelling, and in particular our intimate knowledge of the Department for Transport’s WebTAG modelling guidance and the Rail industry’s Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook. The bottom-up review was undertaken by a team of experience rail revenue modellers. We made a number of recommendations to improve aspects of the modelling methodology and address issues in the models themselves. Representatives of the SYSTRA team were present at the ORR’s hearing with the Track Access applicants to explain the findings of the audit. The ORR’s final decision was published, without formal challenge from any of the applicants.