Rail Regulator calls for independent body to resolve contract disputes

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The Independent Online

The Rail Regulator Tom Winsor yesterday expressed "serious dissatisfaction" with the system for resolving contractual disputes in the industry, which can involve hundreds of millions of pounds.

The Rail Regulator Tom Winsor yesterday expressed "serious dissatisfaction" with the system for resolving contractual disputes in the industry, which can involve hundreds of millions of pounds.

In an attempt to deal with the frequent commercial and legal arguments that arise in a highly fragmented network, Mr Winsor called for an institution similar to Acas, the organisation that resolves industrial disputes.

Launching a consultative document on the issue, the Rail Regulator expressed concern over the existing Access Dispute Resolution Committee. He said the specialist tribunal set up to resolve disputes between train operators and the infrastructure company had "misdirected itself as to the applicable law, applied the wrong tests, decided cases on what it believed the parties should have agreed rather than what is in reality in their contract and sent parties away to renegotiate the contracts."

Mr Winsor said he had made such criticisms in "forceful terms" in the past and that his communications with the industry had revealed his "serious dissatisfaction" with the present system. His solution, which includes the establishment of a Railway Industry Mediation and Arbitration Service, would involve the creation of smaller tribunals under independent chairmanship.

He added that the railway supply industry and other parties had called for the establishment in the private sector of an expert body of mediators, adjudicators and arbitrators. "They [are] dissatisfied with a regime under which they are expected to have their disputes determined by third parties... who know less about the industry than they do.... They need and want something better."

The proposed arbitration service would provide that, Mr Winsor said.

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