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Transport User Voice – January – Keeping passengers at the heart of the Rail Review

21 December 2018

What are we doing about the Rail Review?

It would be hard to have missed the fact the Government has ordered a fundamental review of the way the railways are structured, financed and run. This follows the summer 2018 timetable crisis and on-going performance problems.

The Rail Review has an independent chair in Keith Williams (deputy chairman of retail chain John Lewis & Partners, who was previously chief executive of British Airways). Transport Focus made contact with him and the Rail Review team at the Department for Transport and stressed the importance of placing the passenger perspective front and centre. Support for that approach was signalled clearly in the ‘call for evidence’ issued on 6 December.

Keith Williams is coming to our Board meeting held in public on Tuesday 12 March. Transport Focus will also be feeding its research into the review. To that end, a number of papers will be published in the early part of next year. These will not try to design a new railway but will set out what passengers want any new structure to deliver, how they want to be engaged and their broad views on fares/ticketing. We will also summarise our work on why people do not use rail.

Alongside this, Transport Focus is also undertaking some new research looking at passengers’ attitudes to the existing structure and how they think services should be provided and delivered in future. It will be holding some focus groups around the country and also doing some online survey work in order to dig a bit deeper into issues identified.

This new research revisits an area of work done in 2004 by the Rail Passengers’ Council, which probed views on things like devolution and accountability. That study found that people were more interested in day-to-day performance than they were in whoever ran or owned various parts of the railway. It will be interesting to see how these views of the rail sector may have changed over the past 14 years, a period in which rail has become a more political beast than before. Plus, the recent crises, social media and other factors may well have shifted opinion.

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