System Operator provides expertise to enable the development of network-level strategies, seamless provision of cross-boundary services, and the integration of capacity opportunities across Britain’s railway System

Using capability analysis and tactical modelling, the System Operator provides confidence that whole system investment is aligned to the needs of passengers and freight customers – balanced to support sustainable economic growth.

The work of the System Operator is informed by our industry-wide interfaces with every train operator, the Network Rail routes and regions, other infrastructure managers, public and private funders, and franchising bodies.

How we are performing

Annual narrative report 2018 – 2019
3 MB

Periodic reports and scorecards

Reviewing Part D of the Network Code

Part D of the Network Code prescribes the schedule and process for producing timetables.

A key finding of the independent Inquiry into May 2018 network disruption was that: “The clear message from operators was that the Part-D process is not ‘broken', but that there are areas within in that could be improved”.

Subsequently, the ORR published an Order requiring Network Rail to undertake an industry review of Part D of the Network Code.

The Review is being undertaken by the System Operator and progressed alongside the timetable process improvement programme that is being delivered by the Industry PMO – with both being overseen by industry.

The Review is developing specific themes for consideration including:

  • The timetable process, timeline and dates – including consideration of the application of D2, D3, D6, and D9 of the code.
  • Event Steering Groups- including consideration of opportunities to strengthen the collaboration between operators and the System Operator with particular reference to the use of Event Steering Groups (ESGs) and any other opportunities to better align outcomes across parties for the benefit of the system as a whole.
  • Bid, offer, decision criteria and appeals – including consideration of processes surrounding bidding, whether decision criteria are fit for purpose, and opportunities to speed up appeal resolution. (D4, D5, D8).
  • Risk Management in Timetabling – including consideration of how timetable risk is managed through the process.

Proposals identified through industry workshops will be drafted for consultation and further industry events. Any changes proposed by the industry review will be considered in light of a system-wide view of their benefits and disbenefits, including for passengers and freight.

The final products of the review are expected to include:

  • Proposals for Change (these are ultimately for the Class Representative Committee to independently consider and will need to be proposed by a member such as Network Rail);
  • Longer-term timetable improvement initiatives, likely to include consideration of the go / no-go questions expected and which will likely be incorporated in the PMO’s other workstreams; and
  • Wider observations or recommendations likely to be presented in a final report arising from the review and associated consultation.
  • Pre-consultation workshops on each of the core themes are being held in April: April 3, 5, 8, 16…
  • An industry consultation will take place between May and July, with a key stakeholder event during the consulatation in early June.
  • A consultation summary will be published in August
  • Draft proposals for change will be published in July and August.
  • Any proposals for medium-term changes to the timetable process will be passed to the PMO in August or September for further industry discussion.
  • A Final Report from the Review will be published in October.
  • Changes to the Network Code are expected to be passed to the Class Representatives Committee in time for industry processes to consider and adopt ahead of D-55 for the December 2020 timetable (November 2019).

Infographic explaining the Part-D review

Holding us to account

Acting on behalf of the whole network may mean taking challenging decisions in the best interests of the system even when these may be in conflict with the wishes of one of Network Rail’s routes, a funder’s aspiration, or an operator’s business proposal.

We need to be seen and trusted by all stakeholders to operate on this basis.

We aim to be open in our decision making, invite scrutiny, and advance network policies that command the confidence and support of our stakeholders. Our independent supervisory mechanisms, self-imposed transparency requirements, and governing processes are crucial elements in driving the desired behaviours internally and providing our stakeholders externally with the aspired level of comfort in the decisions being taken.

Independent Advisory Board

The Advisory Board will hold the System Operator to account, consistent with its remit, for the development and delivery of its business plan on behalf of its funders, customers and end users.

Activities include:

  • Ongoing consideration of the System Operator's overall performance, priorities, risks, opportunities, plans and funding, capabilities and incentives,
  • Monitoring delivery through scorecards, customer surveys etc. and
  • Promoting openness, transparency and scrutiny of the System Operator's work.

Independent Advisory Board reports

How we operate

We operate with a clear line of sight between strategic planning and the development of investment and capacity utilisation options for funders – through to the ultimate allocation of train paths in timetables.

This allows us to deliver the best overall rail outcomes for customers, funders, our industry and the wider economy.

Planning the railway of the future by identifying the future capacity needs and opportunities for rail investment to stimulate economic growth.

We provide advice and choices to decision makers, especially funders and franchising authorities.

We lead the industry's long term planning by working with stakeholders to understand, inform and articulate their goals and show how the railway can help achieve them.

We lead the industry's long term planning by working with stakeholders to understand, inform and articulate their goals and show how the railway can help achieve them.

We take an independent and long term view, that goes beyond the lifetime of today's franchises, to consider options including: different timetable patterns; more trains; longer trains; infrastructure options (e.g. digital railway); or new physical infrastructure (e.g. grade separated junctions).

Our work includes demand forecasts, business case appraisals, whole industry economic and station capacity analysis.

New lines:
For funders and rail users to see the optimal benefits from new railways like East-West Rail and HS2, new services need to be integrated with the existing railway, planned and operated effectively and balanced with the needs of exisiting customers.

We lead this process acting as an internal client for the physical railway works and owning key relationships with funders and ORR.

Key outputs include:
Geographic and market based studies, network studies, portfolio advice to national funders.

Enabling changes to network capability, capacity and operation to be effectively and efficiently managed.

Working with goavernments from early in development stages to make sure franchise specifications and bids are realistic and workable.

Developing the business case and securing funding for investment in the network's capability and capacity. Acting as internal client for the realisation of the intended benefits.

Event steering groups:
Enable the delivery of major timetable changes and include affected operators and stakeholders.

Route support:
Helping plan renewals in ways that can benefit passengers and alignment with enhancements to promote operational and financial efficiency.

Network change:
Process co-ordination for changes to the network's layout, configuration or condition.

New lines:
The transformation brought about by these major programmes need route strategies, asset management and business plans, operating models and commercial and regulatory frameworks to all be brought together. We make this happen and lead the industry in develing and delivering the timetable to successfully introduce the new services.

Facilitating decisions on whether to support potential new access rights.

Analysis (capacity analysis / performance assessments) to inform decision making by customers and the regulator on whether to advance an application for access rights.

The System Operator manages the Sale of Access Rights framework within Network Rail including access policies, the sale of access rights process, and the creation of the network-wide timetable.

Policies to support the process will be developed as necessary (e.g. in response to congested infrastructure).

Having the System Operator as a capacity allocation body allows Route Businesses to engage in more collaborative models (such as alliances) while complying with legislative requirements for separation and avoidance of conflicts of interest.

Key outputs include:

Capacity and performance analysis, Sale of Access Rights Process, advice to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), access policies.

Timetable development is a complex, resource heavy and time critical process.

We balance requests for track access from over thirty operating companies alongisde the engineering access needs of the infrastucture businesses.

We are building capabilities to study options for driving additional capacity from the network. we publish information on capacity availability and congestion.

We manage Network Rail's input into development of Part D (Capacity Allocation) of the Network Code to support allocation of rights in the best way and we publish capacity information.

Key outputs include:
Timetable Planning Rules, Engineering Access Statement, Strategic Capacity Statement, Working Timetable, Informed Traveller, Day A for C planning (short term), Timetable Change information.

We will reduce the number of timetable delay incidents and minutes as part of our approach to continuous improvement by improved identification and removal of defects in the timetable at drafting stage.

Our activities also include undertaking short term planning for national customers (i.e. freight paths) and managing the framework of rules for emergency events to set out how routes manage the network during and after disruption.

We also provide routes with the framework to manage very short term capacity allocation decisions (e.g. for significant disruption) and can advise on the overall priorities across the network when difficult network-wide decisions are required.

Routes undertake a limited amount of very short term capacity allocation through local control centres.

System Operator publications

Data Architecture whitepaper
4 MB