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‘No clear consensus’ for renationalisation angers RMT

THE possibility of reviving British Rail appears to have been ruled out by Keith Williams, as he launched the second stage of the consultation which is part of his Rail Review for the DfT.

Speaking in London at the Accelerate Rail conference, he said: ‘We asked passengers if changes to ownership would help. There was no clear consensus that public ownership would solve their concerns, primarily because there is little or no confidence that the system would be any better and, some concern that it would be worse.’

Mr Williams has warned that there will have be some compromises, or ‘trade-offs’ when the new structure of the railway industry is worked out: ‘Moving to a customer focused railway won’t be easy and I want to make it absolutely clear that trade-offs will be unavoidable when I come to make my recommendations – for example, between a system that delivers a national network and is responsive to local interests,’ he said.

Although his latest speech contains indications rather than final recommendations, he is also signalling that devolved structures are finding favour, along with greatly improved integration of rail with other transport modes.

He said: ‘The integration of modes could deliver massive benefits to passengers and taxpayers. Doing it successfully will rely on the sector’s ability to innovate and collaborate. Increasing the digitisation of ticketing is an obvious place to start – this would support integration, could deliver major benefits for passengers and costs savings for the industry. But rail is a long way behind.’

The RMT has attacked his apparent conclusions concerning nationalisation.

The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Any review of the rail service that rules out the favoured option of 70 per cent of the British people is a political fix from top to bottom. By ruling out the public ownership model from the off review chief Keith Williams has confirmed exactly what RMT suspected – that this is an exercise in kicking the can down the road while papering over the cracks of an industry in crisis and buying one-man disaster area Chris Grayling a bit of time.

‘No one will be fooled by this nonsense and no amount of chicanery from Chris Grayling will deflect from the union’s core objective of a publicly owned railway.’

The Williams Review consultation has now moved to stage 2. Comments and evidence are being requested by 31 May.

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