In November 2004 a Railways Act was introduced in the House of Commons. This provided some of the key details about the changes to the Rail Passenger Committees. These included the dissolution of the eight Rail Passenger Committees and the reconstituting of the Rail Passengers Council as a GB-wide body.
The Railways Act became law in April 2005 and since 24 July 2005, there has been a new Rail Passengers Council which is the official, independent voice of all rail passengers. Passenger Focus is the independent public body set up by the Government to protect the interests of Britain’s rail passengers. The organisation is funded by the Department for Transport but their independence is guaranteed by an act of Parliament. The board is made up of sixteen members and meet throughout the year. The Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly Government and the Greater London Authority are each able to appoint a member to the board and the Secretary of State for Transport makes the remaining appointments. Recruitment to the Board was on an open recruitment basis, and appointment was based on a mix of skills, knowledge and competencies plus geographic spread across Great Britain.
The aim for ‘Passenger Focus’ is to get the best deal for Britain’s rail passengers. They gather research and information, such as the National Passenger Survey, where 50,000 rail passengers give their views about their rail journeys. Additionally they work with government and the rail industry to ensure that the passenger voice is heard when making decisions about the future of the railways.They also provide passengers with advice on how to get the best from the national rail network, explain their rights and help them when things go wrong and they work with other passenger groups to support them in their work. Furthermore, Passenger Focus assists customers who have made complaints to train operating companies and are unhappy with the response that they have received.
In London, a separate organisation, London TravelWatch (formerly the London Transport Users’ Association) has responsibility for reflecting passenger views on suburban rail services, the Underground, trams and other public transport.
More generally, regulation and inspection on the railways is carried out by the Office of the Rail Regulator. ORR regulates the operation of franchises and has a particular responsibility for safety.