I missed the regulator’s press conference as I was filming for Tyne Tees but the two press releases issued today shows, yet again, that the regulator is floundering and causing mayhem ineffectually, if that is not an oxy moron.
First, there is the bizarre decision to turn down the application for Grand Central to run trains on the West Coast from Blackpool. Now I hold no brief for open access, but the regulator seems to have shifted the goalposts to somewhere off the Fylde coast. The decision was apparently made because the regulator wants to rethink access for the West Coast, offering the franchisee a ten year access agreement which would then be opened up to allow more competition. But the Department has announced that it wants a 14 year franchise, so bidders will now have no idea what competition they are likely to face in the final few years of the franchise.In the meantime, bids which private open access players have spent considerable sums on are simply rejected on the basis that the rules have changed.
Then, yet again, we have sabrerattling – or rather toy sword waving – over Network Rail’s failure to deliver its performance target. If the naughty boys at NR do it again is the suggestion, then, oooh, we might spank their botties by declaring it a breach in their network licence. Well so bloody what – we already know that fines merely are money lost to the industry and that the bonuses of the NR bigwigs are not even affected by the ORR’s hand slaps. And the ORR knows this, so that’s why it is reluctant to do anything than issue warnings.
So on one matter the regulator imposes itself, making up new rules as it goes along, and in the other instance, demonstrates its powerlessness. So called ‘independent’ regulation is another burden on the industry which it could well do without.