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Industry comments on Williams Rail Review

UK: Organisations from across the rail sector have responded to Keith Williams’ speech in Bradford on July 16 during which he provided an update on the strategic review of the rail sector which he is undertaking for the government.

Rail Delivery Group

‘Businesses, communities and passengers across the country have told us that they want easier fares, increased accountability and a system which allows rail companies to focus more fully on delivering for customers’, said Jacqueline Starr, Chief Operating Officer at the Rail Delivery Group.

‘While we await the detail, it’s very encouraging to see these areas being prioritised by the review team. Our proposals for a single independent organising body would ensure everyone is working towards the same customer-centric goals, and changes to fares regulations would reduce overcrowding on some of the busiest services and create an easier to use, better value fares system for all.’

Railway Industry Association

‘The supply sector is essential if we are to deliver the future rail improvements our network needs, and to do so, the industry will require a consistent and visible profile of work and long-term policy certainty’, said David Tonkin, Chairman of the Railway Industry Association.

‘Williams mentioned in his speech the role of a new “guiding mind”. We welcome this move as we believe there is a need for government to devolve much of the day-to-day operation and co-ordination of the industry, and to concentrate on an outcomes-based approach. However, the new body must be set up with a clear terms of reference, responsibilities and vision to ensure that it is effective.’

Consumer groups

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of Transport Focus, said ‘the acid test of all these changes will be when passengers feel sustained, improved reliability of trains and better value for money.’

Neena Bhati, Head of Campaigns at Which?, said ‘moves to speed up compensation claims and make the system more consistent are welcome. But to really improve the dire levels of trust in train companies, the rail review should recommend fully automatic compensation so passengers no longer have to jump through hoops to get the money they are owed.’


Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said ‘Williams misses the point’, and ‘continuing with private train operators subject to performance-related payments means sticking with a failed, unaccountable and disjointed railway.  Instead, we should bring the track and train together in a single company in public ownership – but, critically, at arm’s length from government and removed from government interference and micromanagement.’

Trade unions

General Secretary of the TSSA union Manuel Cortes said Williams was ‘taking us into the realms of pure fiction. It is plain daft to suggest going back to the future by echoing the failed and discredited Strategic Rail Authority which proved costly and unworkable. Williams has already said that the current rail franchising model is finished – but what he is offering today is a little more than a sleight of hand. Creating a new body is wildly out of step with public demands for a public railway and won’t cure the many ills of privatisation.’

Mick Cash, General Secretary of the RMT, said the union had ‘warned that Keith Williams would side 100% with his big-business mates and duck the issue of public ownership of the railways, the option supported by over two-thirds of the British people. He has and after months of deliberation has come up with the classic cop-out of another unaccountable quango.’

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