BRITAIN’S Rail Regulator John Swift announced on August 15 that he was proceeding with enforcement action against Train Operating Companies over poor performance of the National Rail Enquiry Service, the network of telephone enquiry bureaux accessed by a single number since August 1996. All 25 TOCs participate in the NRES scheme, divided into 10 zonal contracts let to TOCs or the private sector and administered by the Association of Train Operating Companies.

Dissatisfied with NRES performance and using powers written into the passenger licence issued to every TOC, Swift published a proposed enforcement order on July 11 setting out the fines that TOCs would be liable to pay if less than 90% of calls to NRES were answered in a four-week period. Unpersuaded by subsequent representations, the Rail Regulator proceeded with a final enforcement order covering the period between August 17 and September 14.

For each percentage point of calls not answered between 85% and 89%, the TOCs stand to be fined £50000, rising to £100000 per point in the 75% to 85% range and £200000 per point below 75%. During July, 71% of calls to NRES were answered; performance levels were reported to be just short of 90% towards the end of August, with ATOC sources anticipating a ’minimal’ fine under the enforcement order. o