27 FEB 2019


The man responsible for leading a “root-and-branch" review of the UK rail network has said the industry is not delivering the benefits it should be to passengers and taxpayers.

After being appointed to lead the largest rail review since privatisation five months ago, former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams has called on the need for the sector “to adapt to a fast changing world”.

Williams believes franchising “cannot continue the way it is today” and that contracting out passenger services was leading to more problems for commuters.

With recommendations set to be published in the autumn, the rail review chair speaking to an industry audience in London, shared some thoughts after months of speaking to invested parties. 

“I have heard a great deal about the franchising model….driving growth in passengers and benefits to services,” the chair said. “But with this growth the needs of passengers have changed whilst many of the basic elements of our rail system have not kept pace. Put bluntly, franchising cannot continue the way it is today. It is no longer delivering clear benefits for either taxpayers and farepayers. I believe that for the railway to be successful it needs to put passengers at its heart.”

The former British Airways chief executive was appointed to lead the major review of rail industry in September after a summer of discontent. He is being supported by an expert challenge panel during the process.

The aim being to bring track and train closer together to reduce disruption and improve accountability, while considering regional partnerships and how the sector can use innovation to improve services and value for money for passengers.

Data shows that passenger journeys have more than doubled from 735 million in 1994-5 to 1.73 billion in 2016-17 and the industry has not managed to keep pace with this significant growth. 

Commenting on progress, Williams wants the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to look at compensation and accessibility and report to him on what more could be done by rail operators to improve the process.

“There’s real hunger for change within the industry as well as outside,” he added. “We will continue listening to what you have to say and learning from your insight and experience. We need to do more on making it easier for customers to access the compensation they are entitled to and improving accessibility for all users, including disabled people. We need to recognise that there is unlikely to be a ‘one size fits all’ solution which will work for every part of the country and all types of passenger.”


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