Watchdog denies MP’s claims of ‘cosy’ links with Network Rail

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Rail regulators last night denied MPs’ suggestion that they were “cosy” with Network Rail over the need for cost savings.

The claim, made by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, was raised as Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) chiefs appeared before the commons transport committee.

The transport committee chairman Louise Ellman said: “The public accounts committee said you had a very cosy relationship with Network Rail. Do you agree with that?”

ORR chief executive Richard Price replied “No, not at all.” He said the ORR’s actions had led to Network Rail’s costs being reduced by 40 per cent in the last decade.

Earlier in last night’s hearing, Mrs Ellman said the committee had criticised the ORR for “not doing enough” to ensure Network Rail was more efficient.

Mr Price said Britain’s railways were “safer than they have ever been” although “incidents of some risk still happen”.

He said the ORR worked with Network Rail and train companies to ensure these risks were properly managed.

He assured the MPs that Network Rail was adequately funded to deal with safety and that would also be the case in the next rail “control period” - from 2014 to 2019. Mr Price said that despite the good safety record at present, there were areas of concern for ORR.