Williams-Shapps reforms fire the starting gun for the recovery of Britain’s railways

Commenting on today’s major rail announcement, Ed Thomas, Partner and Head of Transport at KPMG UK, said:

Commenting on today’s major rail announcement, Ed Thomas, Partner and Head of Transport.

“At the point at which the Williams Review was announced there was a sense that the privatised rail system set up by John Major in the 1990s had exhausted itself and run out of steam. An overly fragmented industry with complex contracts had become confusing to the public and led to disjointed decision making culminating in the issues around the May 2018 timetable changes.

“Today’s announcement should receive a positive welcome as it presents a coherent set of policy prescriptions to tackle the issues that prompted the Williams Review head-on. A new “guiding mind” will ensure that there is a single plan on each part of the network that is aligned across infrastructure and operations. It should also make the system more agile in responding to changing passenger needs and result in more cost-effective decisions.

“Replacement of revenue-based franchises with simpler passenger service contracts should focus train operators on managing the risks they can control and delivering the outcomes around punctuality and service quality that passengers really care about.

“The size of the task of implementing the reforms over the next couple of years should not be underestimated. The Review has taken two and a half years to conclude and the starting point is a highly fragmented industry which faces significant financial challenges following the impact on journey numbers of the COVID pandemic. It is imperative that a fast start is made in preparing for the reforms while the necessary legislation to establish the new rail body is finalised and taken through Parliament.”


Notes to Editors

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Tanya Holden
, Deputy Head of Media Relations
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