Posted 8th May 2019 | 3 Comments

RDG ‘fighting like rats in a sack’ over Williams Review

THE Rail Delivery Group is reported to be divided over what the Williams Review should do to restructure the industry, with one union leader claiming that its members are ‘like rats fighting in a sack’.

The RDG published its joint submission to Keith Williams on behalf of train operators who make up the majority of its members on 30 April, when it called for the creation of a new ‘independent national organising body in charge of the whole industry, acting as the glue that binds it together’.

There were also proposals for more operators on some intercity routes and more commuter railways to be controlled by devolved authorities, while it said fares would be easier to understand and be better value, with no longer any need for split ticketing. At the moment, buying consecutive tickets along some routes can bring significant savings for passengers who know the system, because tariffs range so widely.

However, when the RDG published its proposals it also admitted that not all its members agreed in every detail, but it maintained that there was ‘support for the principles outlined’.

Virgin Group is known to have different views, because it wants the shake-up to be more radical, advocating in its own submission to Keith Williams that paths on intercity routes should be sold to the highest bidders instead of being allocated to a single franchise. It also called for all seats on intercity trains to be reserved in advance, even by season ticket holders, effectively ending the ‘walk on’ railway.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘What we are seeing here is the opposite of a professional body putting the public first. Instead what the RDG are doing is fighting like rats in a sack to preserve their cosy, head or tails winning, profit cartel.

‘Only a few days ago the RDG were calling for a single body to oversee our railways. Now they can’t even agree a single position about the future of rail in our country.

‘Not only that, their chief executive Paul Plummer has said he’s leaving. Something is badly wrong and whatever fudge the RDG and Plummer eventually manage to come up with, Keith Williams should see through their nonsense. The travelling public certainly shall.’

A spokesman for the RDG told Railnews: ‘In any organisation as broad as the RDG, it is inevitable that not all members will agree on the detail of all individual elements of the proposals but all members agree with the principles and that the building blocks for a generational system upgrade would lead to positive lasting change for passengers and the country.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Joel, London

    Nothing wrong with a unifying body such as (the best of - and there was a lot) 'British Rail', but fit for and funded for the 21st century. We need a human-scale railway delivering passengers and freight, where the present scheme clearly fails in a number of places.

    When the prime mover is profit, money to redevelop the railway can't come from within; it has to be borrowed, adding to costs. Passengers also travel for someone else's benefit (workplaces, shops, leisure interests etc) - they need to contribute too.

    We taxpayers still subsidise the railway - we're entitled to something back. The present system doesn't do that, nor would RDG's / Virgin's off-beam propositions.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    There seems to be a degree of consensus emerging that the diverse range of activity on the railway can't be effectively run on a "one size fits all" basis, and urban, commuter, rural and intercity / long distance operations all need rather different "horses for courses" approaches, some gaining accountability through commercial competition, and others through forms of local direct democracy co-operatives. One thing seems pretty clear, though - we ought not to try "going back to the future" to recreate a"Monolithic State owned British Rail". We tried that and it didn't really work.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    There are of course many different 'Railways' operating in the UK. Some are as mentioned are all about Commuting, others Inter-City, some Cross Country. Some make their profits from leisure travel, others from Season Tickets. Some lines and services are full, some lightly used. Some are run by really good Franchise Holders, other are at bit iffy. We are having this debate out in the open where the Public knows what is going on. But the same questions would need answering if all decisions on who takes precedence and cost were behind closed doors of a Monolithic State Owned 'British Rail'