Posted 12th April 2016 | 1 Comment

Consultation reveals 'deep scepticism' about railway industry

RESPONSES to a consultation over the future structure and financing of Network Rail have revealed that Nicola Shaw's conclusions, which were published in mid-March, were broadly in line with widely-held views.

The Shaw report rejected privatisation of Network Rail or a complete break-up of the company, in favour of more private investment targeted at specific projects or purposes. It also recommended that more control should be handed to individual route managing directors.

The responses to a Department for Transport consultation, published today, suggest that many people have agreed with her. The analysis also concedes that there is 'a perceived lack of accountability or answerability in the railway: with many respondents asking who is accountable for the railway – the government, Network Rail, train operators, or a combination of all -- or none of these'.

In addition, there was a 'sense of disempowerment whereby customers and end users expressed frustration that decisions are taken in places where they do not have a say and where they feel that the railway operates in spite of them not for them. Many responses suggest a deep scepticism with the status quo and that customers’ needs are not best represented in the current structure'.

There is also some concern about the prospects for the industry, with respondents 'worried that recent high levels of investment in the railway may not continue in the future, that longer-term planning is not as effective as it might be (or that any changes to Network Rail may harm industry planning), and that the ability for third-parties to suggest smaller initiatives that may make a significant local difference is inhibited'.

These views have come to light at a sensitive time, as local authorities in the North and Midland are gearing up to have more say about how the railways are run as part of wider regional devolution, but the DfT is distancing itself from the responses to Shaw, saying that 'the findings and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the DfT'.

Reader Comments:

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  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    I hope Network Rail remains in its current form for the foreseeable future as projects which may take place could be at risk of not being drawn up if it's touched.