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Imminent Williams Review could spark major industrial unrest

REPORTS that the much-delayed Williams Review of the railway industry – now apparently renamed the ‘Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail’– could be published this week have sparked protests from the RMT union, which is predicting ‘a tsunami of cuts’ and widespread job losses.

The main planks of Keith Williams’ reforms are said to have survived. These include the replacement of franchises by concessions, a new ‘arm’s length’ public body to award the new contracts and an end to ‘micro-management’ by the Department for Transport. Network Rail’s responsibility’s for infrastructure would continue but only from within the new body, which would end the days of Network Rail as a separate organisation.

Reforms to ticketing seem likely to be less radical than passenger groups and other campaigners had wanted, although carnet tickets to make part-time commuting more financially attractive are still on the cards.

The RMT, which had called for wholesale renationalisation, is gearing up for a fight.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘As we emerge from the pandemic our railway needs  a radical new forward thinking strategy to expand and improve services to make them more reliable, affordable and accessible, allowing the network to‎ play is full role in rebuilding our economy and reducing carbon emissions.

‘Instead all the signals are that the Shapps/Williams review will be stuck in the past and wedded to the failure of privatisation. It’s the same meat with different gravy served up by the Tories and their rail fat cat friends.

‘We are already seeing the reality of rail under this government with thousands of Network Rail and other jobs under threat, fare hikes for passengers and pay freezes for workers. We know full well that the industry is preparing for a tsunami of cuts, enabling the rail companies to return to a culture of massive dividend payments and corporate greed.

‘RMT will fight any such plans with a national strategy and we have already moved the union on to a dispute footing in preparation for that fight.’

Although there has been no official announcement, it is believed the review could be published on Thursday.

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