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Train operators call for ‘TfL-style networks’ across UK

Waterloo station barriers

Rail industry trade body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has called for a “generational system upgrade” of the country’s rail networks, with “TfL-style networks” replacing the current franchising system on mass-commuter routes.

In its submission to the Williams Review, the RDG calls for “TfL-style concessions in more cities across the country […] complemented by some long-distance routes offering more competition and choice for the customer”.

“The new system would be overseen by a single organising body, independent of government and industry, ensuring decisions about trains, infrastructure and services are more joined up”, the group’s submission reads.

“Sitting outside day-to-day politics, the organising body would drive up accountability and standards, helping to end the blame game when things sometimes do go wrong and giving penalties where rail companies fall short.

“With this new organising body in charge, the current ‘one size fits all’ franchise system would be replaced with different types of services designed to suit the needs of different groups of passengers.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling commissioned the Williams Review to identify shortcomings in the rail sector. Chair of the review Keith Williams is to publish a white paper in the Autumn outlining recommendations for reform.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: “These proposals call time on short term fixes and set out the once-in-a-generation system upgrade the railway needs if it is to help the country prosper over the next 25 years.

“We want to move forward with a rail system that is more focused on customers, more responsive to local communities and more accountable, letting rail companies deliver what people want in each area of the country and rebuilding trust between the industry and passengers.”

RDG’s submission outlined eight reforms it wants to see under a new system:

  • Deliver easier fares for all
  • Put a new independent organising body in charge of the whole industry
  • Introduce response, customer focused public service contracts, replacing the current franchising system
  • Give customers more choice of operators on some long-distance routes
  • Make sure track and trains are all working to the same customer-focused goals
  • Bring decisions about local services closer to home
  • Enhance freight’s central role in delivering for Britain’s economy
  • Invest in staff to deliver positive long-term change for customers 

Rail Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan backed the calls for less “day-to-day intervention” from the government. 

“Whilst change in the rail industry should not occur for the sake of change, there is a need for the government to withdraw from day-to-day intervention in the railway, which is widespread, and to concentrate on an outcomes-based approach,” Caplan said. 

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