Rail companies call for a generational system update

The Williams Review comes at a crucial moment. As Britain grapples with some of the biggest issues facing any nation, it is vital that our economy, and the infrastructure that underpins it, meets its full potential not just for today but for generations to come.

The Rail Delivery Group proposals would replace the current franchising system with public service contracts that could see TfL-style networks on some mass-commuter routes, more choice and competition for passengers on some long-distance routes, and services running on other routes with tough outcome-based targets and incentives.

These contracts would be overseen by a new, independent organising acting as the glue that binds the railway together. Sitting outside day-to-day politics, the organising body would drive up accountability and standards, making it clear where the buck stops.

The new proposal calls for the new system to be underpinned by an easier to use, better value range of fares, made possible by updating decades old regulations that have led to a complex and confusing system. 

A fully reformed fares system would also enable greater local control over fares in devolved areas and better integration of rail fares with those for other modes of transport.

The proposal is a clear, eight-point plan to deliver this new system for our customers and the communities we serve:

  1. Deliver easier fares for all - updating decades of regulation to enable a fares system which is much easier for passengers to use and better value for money backed up by an industry ‘best fare guarantee’.
  2. Put a new independent organising body in charge of the whole industry – to remove politics from the running of the railway as far as possible, join up decisions, and hold the industry to account with penalties where it falls short.
  3. Introduce responsive, customer focussed ‘public service contracts’, replacing the current franchising system - These would be made up of TfL-style single branded ‘concessions’ or new ‘customer outcome-based’ contracts, in place of today’s tightly specified inputs-based model, which would better incentivise the private sector to innovate to improve, while only rewarding good performance.
  4. Give customers more choice of operators on some long-distance routes - having more rail companies competing for passengers, offered a range of different services based on what they want. This means rail companies would have to adapt to passenger needs to keep their business.
  5. Make sure track and train are all working to the same customer-focussed goals - introducing a single thread of consistent targets and incentives running through the whole industry, from CEOs to frontline teams and between the track and the train, so that all parts of the railway pull together – ending the blame game.
  6. Bring decisions about local services closer to home - so that, where appropriate, such as in larger city regions which serve commuter markets, customers would benefit from local transport bodies being given more power to design and specify local services.
  7. Enhance freight’s central role in delivering for Britain’s economy – by developing a clear national framework to put freight in to the core of business, environmental, and long-term strategic government policy making.
  8. Invest in our people to deliver positive long-term change for our customers – with a new approach to working with the unions, governments and the industry which provides our people with the skills, resources and rewards they need to deliver generational change in the railway.

The full proposal could be found here


  • Teodora Kaneva

    Teodora Kaneva

    Programme Manager | SmarterUK
    T 020 7331 2016

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