Posted 11th October 2018 | 1 Comment

Chris Grayling set to announce scope of rail review

TRANSPORT secretary Chris Grayling is set to reveal the scope of his railway industry review today, which was announced in the wake of a highly critical report from the Office of Rail and Road on 20 September.

The ORR has been investigating the reasons behind the problems with new timetables on May, which particularly affected passengers on Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern. It found that Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway, Northern, the Department for Transport and the ORR itself all made mistakes which contributed to the collapse of services.

The Department for Transport was so concerned about the disruption which occurred in the spring and summer that most of December’s planned changes have been put on hold until next year, while Mr Grayling also said that there would be a ‘root and branch’ review of the railway industry.

Opposition politicians have been been calling for wide renationalisation, which could include the public takeover of rolling stock leasing companies as well as the end of passenger rail franchising.

Mr Grayling’s review is to be led by Keith Williams, who is deputy chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and previously served as chief executive of British Airways.

However, the DfT appeared to be ruling out any nationalisation measures when it said Mr Williams and his team will ‘build on the government’s franchising strategy’, increasing vertical integration between track and train and also considering regional partnerships as well as the role of innovation.

Reader Comments:

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  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    One thing the industry hasn't been short of is reviews & reports. That the DfT remit appears to preempt a conclusion 'to build on the government's franchising strategy' suggests that other than some rearrangement of the deck chairs little fundamental structural change if any will be forthcoming and that this review will be just another apology for a lack of strategic direction.

    In the 25 years since the 1993 Privatisation Act vandalised the integrated railway the franchised model has had time to show it's value. While some operators have prospered at best most have given a mediocre operational performance. As the May timetable meltdown illustrated this was the final breakdown of the fundamental planning and operational relationship inherited from the integrated railway that the increasingly adversarial contractual relationship has failed to replicate.

    Reintegration of track & train is certainly long overdue. Considerable duplication between DfT, ORR, RSSB & RDG can be eliminated by simplification of the structure above operational level that for too long has been inflating cost & extracting value from the industry.

    If the government were to be honest the franchise model is broken. The private sector will only be interested if they can see a cash generating opportunity. As recent experience has shown the opportunity for generous profits & dividends from UK rail is increasingly limited. Experience of those operations run as concessions such as Merseyrail & TfL rail has been encouraging. Perhaps one thing is clear that central government through the DfT does not have the answers & has increasingly, especially given the most recent turmoil, has been the cause of the industries problems. Where services have been devolved such as TfL & Scotrail they are prospering. Nationalisation under Grayling is a definite no no. Other than his long overdue resignation if he is to have any rail transport legacy devolution of more responsibility from DfT is long overdue.