From customer service professionals to rail drivers, the rail transport industry in the United Kingdom thrives on high standards and strong regulations. The British rail industry has been the envy of foreign railways for decades and the secret to its success is in its use of regulatory bodies to maintain efficient railways. Graduates, young professionals, and those experienced in the railway industry need to understand the intricate web of government and private bodies that help create the sound environment in which they work. Maintaining a proper knowledge of this bureaucracy will lead to professional success and safe travels. At the national level, the British railway system is managed by two government bodies.
The Health and Safety Executive is the government body that is responsible for general health and safety standards of industries throughout Great Britain. The Executive office's involvement in the railway consists largely of investigating industrial accidents, including derailments and transportation snags. The more significant body for rail professionals to become familiar with is the Office of Rail Regulation, which is a newer body responsible solely for regulating railways. The Office of Rail Regulation provides economic and safety regulation for all railways in Great Britain. Their activities include enforcement of anti-monopoly laws, inspection of licensing documents, and general stewardship of rail companies.
Perhaps the most important private company that railway engineers and drivers should be familiar with is Network Rail. This privately held body has owned the entire British railway infrastructure for the last decade and provides maintenance and upgrades to key assets in the industry. Private ownership of rail tracks, signals, crossings, and most of the stations in Great Britain allows Network Rail to spend private assets to provide innovative approaches to rail travel.
Since it is such a pervasive presence in Great Britain, Network Rail should be familiar to most professionals. There are several smaller organizations that are evident of the regulatory structure in Great Britain. The Association of Train Operating Companies is a representative body of 26 transportation companies in Great Britain. This organization owns the National Rail brand and manages a variety of rail services, including rail discount cards and travel agency licensing.
Most railway professionals will come into contact with Transport for London at some point in their career. This local government organization manages London's transportation system while coordinating with private companies to avoid transportation problems through London.
Mark Murphy, Business Unit Director for Wynnwith Rail, a leading provider of Rail Jobs.