Posted 17th May 2021 | 3 Comments

Imminent Williams Review could spark major industrial unrest

REPORTS that the much-delayed Williams Review of the railway industry – now apparently renamed the ‘Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail’– could be published this week have sparked protests from the RMT union, which is predicting ‘a tsunami of cuts’ and widespread job losses.

The main planks of Keith Williams’ reforms are said to have survived. These include the replacement of franchises by concessions, a new ‘arm’s length’ public body to award the new contracts and an end to ‘micro-management’ by the Department for Transport. Network Rail’s responsibility’s for infrastructure would continue but only from within the new body, which would end the days of Network Rail as a separate organisation.

Reforms to ticketing seem likely to be less radical than passenger groups and other campaigners had wanted, although carnet tickets to make part-time commuting more financially attractive are still on the cards.

The RMT, which had called for wholesale renationalisation, is gearing up for a fight.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘As we emerge from the pandemic our railway needs  a radical new forward thinking strategy to expand and improve services to make them more reliable, affordable and accessible, allowing the network to‎ play is full role in rebuilding our economy and reducing carbon emissions.

‘Instead all the signals are that the Shapps/Williams review will be stuck in the past and wedded to the failure of privatisation. It’s the same meat with different gravy served up by the Tories and their rail fat cat friends.

‘We are already seeing the reality of rail under this government with thousands of Network Rail and other jobs under threat, fare hikes for passengers and pay freezes for workers. We know full well that the industry is preparing for a tsunami of cuts, enabling the rail companies to return to a culture of massive dividend payments and corporate greed.

‘RMT will fight any such plans with a national strategy and we have already moved the union on to a dispute footing in preparation for that fight.’

Although there has been no official announcement, it is believed the review could be published on Thursday.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley, Flintshie

    While we've been expecting this report for several years I can't really see that there will many major surprises as many of the expected recommendations have already leaked out to the wider world.

    Perhaps & purely from an academic view the contents of the original report could be released so that we can seen what changes have been made now that it appears to be coauthored by the current Secretary of State Mr Shapps.

    For those of us who were caught up in the original privatisation process & have followed it's twists & turns for three decades it will be interesting if any lessons have been learned. It's hardly been a secret that the industry has become bloated & it's cost base excessive.

    While having to rely on additional state revenue support to survive the pandemic it will come as no surprise that HM Treasury will be taking a close interest & wanting to see it's exposure reduced. Unfortunately when costs are being cut it will be the troops that suffer disproportionately rather than the officer class making the decisions. If the government is going to be really committed to reintegrating the railway then dismantling the post privatisation bureaucratic structures should be a priority as they have only added to the cost base while extracting value from both the railway's customers & the general taxpayer.

  • Mark Rice, Epsom

    There is a consensus that the railways are losing money and action has to be taken*. The entire country knows something has to happen.

    If you offered the public the choice, cut backs in services or cut backs in non essential rail staff, where do you think their support will go?

    With so many private sector redundancies over the past year, I dont think many people will care about a bit of pain being shared with the public sector.

    It seems the RMT are about to fall in a large Tory trap and about to shown to be outdated and out of touch.
    [*The railways have not made a profit since 1955. They are important because of the part they play in the national infrastructure.--Ed.]

  • Matthew Ellis, Woking

    While there are clearly issues with the current rail model that must be addressed, I cannot help but think that one of the long term blockers to creating a genuinely cost effective and passenger focussed industry is the attitude of the unions.

    At least now that many companies are comfortable with Work from Home, any rail disputes will have less overall impact than they once might have.

    On the plus side, I hear that shares in pitch fork manufacturers are doing well...