The Office of Rail & Road has closed its formal study of the UK signalling market

UK: The Office of Rail & Road has closed the formal study of the UK signalling market which it had launched in January to explore whether there were any competition issues affecting the supply chain, and to determine if any action were needed.

‘Given the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, we have now taken the decision to close the market study’, ORR said on April 8. ‘This will allow industry to focus on operational and safety issues during these challenging times. We were making sound progress and had reached a critical point in gathering information from industry, having identified a number of issues warranting further close investigation. We therefore considered that carrying on would place too great a burden on critical personnel, and we would have been unable to reach a fair and accurate decision by the legal deadline of July 26.’

The supply of signalling systems accounted for more than £4bn of Network Rail’s spending in 2014-19. ORR was looking at the level of competition for significant projects, the strength of competition for tenders and whether there are any barriers to innovation, new entrants and new technology. In particular, it was to examine whether there is ‘fair and commercially reasonable’ access to interlocking technology and the installed infrastructure base.

ORR said the signalling market remained a key focus, and re-opening the study once the railway returned to a steady-state would be a high priority. In the meantime, it would continue its work in the area ‘without placing burden on industry’.

A final report is to be published setting out the full reasons why ORR had to close the study.