Transport User Voice – October 2018 – Rail Review: passengers must be the priority

28 September 2018

After the torrid summer of timetable disruption, on-going patchy performance and strikes we are now working to make sure the Government’s Rail Review puts passengers at the heart of services.

To command passenger faith the Rail Review must depart, travel and arrive with the needs of users at its core so that the railway can deliver better reliability, more space to sit or stand on trains, and keener value for money.

The lessons of the Glaister report from the Office of Rail and Road must be acted upon swiftly – so the next set of timetable changes that kick off in December (before fare increases take effect next January) are managed more smoothly.

The Rail Review needs to sweep up the developing themes that have emerged from Glaister, the joint fares consultation held by Rail Delivery Group and Transport Focus and all the other reviews that have taken place recently. The passenger voice should also be paramount, and we will work to ensure it is.

It’s worth recalling that we last looked what passengers want from the structure of the railways in 2004 when the last widescale review of the railways took place. Passengers views articulated then remain relevant now:

  • Passengers want to see improvements to their rail services – this review must focus on outputs that will achieve this. Passengers accept the need for change, but the review must not become a distraction or an excuse in and of itself. Change must be communicated to passengers and phased in gradually.
  • Passengers want a clear sense of strategic direction and the assurance that ‘somebody’ has a strategic vision for the railways. A single point of decision-making should exist to determine strategic investment priorities and overarching rail policy. Within this context there is scope for more of the non-strategic decision making to be devolved to national and regional administrations. Funding should follow this.
  • Passengers also want a sense that there is ‘someone’ in charge when it comes to the delivery of services to them. A single ‘delivery unit’ – which is separate from the strategic decision-making body – should have the authority to procure top-level train company and infrastructure outputs. Within this structure train companies and Network Rail should be judged and rewarded according to the delivery of services for passengers and not the delivery of services to each other.

The Rail Review must address what went wrong this year, and to repair trust amongst the travelling public it must ultimately deliver a more resilient rail system. Transport Focus will work to ensure it does.

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