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Review chair slams rail industry's inability to innovate

Willesden junction station by mattbuck 3to2

The rail industry “no longer possesses the same ability or incentive to innovate”, independent rail review chair Keith Williams concluded in the initial conclusions to his “root and branch” rail review.

In the annual George Bradshaw address at the ICE, Williams said that there is now a widespread frustration that rules and regulations are holding back innovation and problem solving.

He said that the large numbers of people travelling by rail had meant that focus had moved from innovation to improving reliability. He added that more investment is needed in areas like the digital railway to improve the system as a whole.

“If you look at the pace of change today people are having to adapt far more quickly. That is true of rail as well as anything else,” he said.

“But to be able to make that change happen, you’ve got to encourage people to invest and you’ve to give them the ability to look at out at the future and not just at the present.”

Work on the rail review started five months ago and has focused mainly on the franchising model. Williams said he had concluded that the system “cannot continue the way it is today”.

“It is no longer delivering clear benefits for either taxpayers and farepayers,” he said. “I believe that for the railway to be successful it needs to put passengers at its heart.”

The former British Airways chief executive said that running the railways was extremely complex.

“If the airline industry is like a game of chess, then today’s complexity in the UK rail industry is more like a Rubik’s Cube and (by the way) only 5.8% of the world’s population can solve a Rubik’s Cube,” he said.

Despite the fact that there had been 30 independent reviews of the rail industry over the last decade Williams said the current assessment was different. He said it was the first “full-blown” review to be supported by the government “for some considerable time” with “root and branch” change being encouraged by the Department for Transport.

“It will be the culmination of the biggest and widest review of the railway for generations,” he said.

The review is expected to finish in the autumn with recommendations for change published in a White Paper. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Rail industry hide bound by rules and regulations? Now there's a surprise! Suggest they need a look at all the b*llsh*t that's been introduced over the years, making common sense redundant!

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