While legislation and regulations are often seen as boring and too complex for even the most experienced professional, the British railway industry thrives on strong regulations and oversight. Since the advent of the British railway system, the government and railway companies have relied on well crafted legislation in order to protect consumers from unfair pricing and unsafe travel. As well, legislation has been crafted to protect workers from poor labor practices and companies from monopolistic business moves. An understanding of some of the major legislative moves in Parliament over the last few years can help professionals understand the thicket of British rail regulations. One of the most important pieces of legislation for the financial side of the British railway industry was the Railway Act of 1993.
In this act, Parliament restructured the nationalized British Railways to remedy financial problems in the industry. The British government charged itself with the task of regulating the dissolved railway organization, which was broken up into several large rail companies. The move was meant to create competitive pricing, allow for critical distance between the government and the railway industry, and develop a solid model for other nationalized industries. Another important legislative act was the Railway and Transport Safety Act of 2003.
This act replaced the poorly functioning Rail Regulator under the old British Railways organization with the Office of Rail Regulation. This office today provides enforcement of financial, safety, and technological regulations in the railway industry on behalf of the government. This act was meant to avoid the rail accidents in the United Kingdom in the late 1990s while ensuring a high quality transit option for everyone in the United Kingdom. A final piece of legislation fundamental for an understanding of the British railway industry is the 2005 Railways Act. This act abolished the Strategic Rail Authority and moved its oversight responsibilities between the Secretary of State and the Office of Rail Regulation.
As well, the financial stewardship over the industry was left to the Secretary of State for Transportation who needed to determine a financial course for the railway. The act also created Passenger Focus, which is a unified national consumer representative body to remedy consumer complaints and give industry leaders the average person's point of view. Finally, the Secretary of State and others were tasked with the responsible closure of redundant stations and lines over the next decade.
Mark Murphy, Business Unit Director for Wynnwith Rail, a leading provider of Rail Jobs.