Parliamentary rail group calls for new national railway body

All-party parliamentary rail group calls for new national railway body.

The all-party parliamentary rail group (APPRG) has called for a new national railway body as it delivered its report for consideration alongside the conclusions of the ongoing Williams Review.

A parliamentary inquiry took place in June and July earlier this summer, with contributions from Arriva Trains UK, FirstGroup, Jonathan Tyler, the Office for Rail and Road, Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group, the Rail Freight Group and the Urban Transport Group.

Much of the Williams Review input by various stakeholders and evidence received to the group’s inquiry has focused on a new arm’s length body or a “guiding mind.”

However, the APPRG’s report Rail Reform: A Guided Mind goes a lot further, and says that:

  • There’s a logical rationale for a new national body to create a professional ‘controlling mind’ to make key decisions, ensuring consistency of thinking and approach.
  • It would appear viable to have a new centralised national ‘controlling mind’ or to have decisions and related powers moved closer to local markets. It does not appear possible to have both, however.
  • De-centralisation rather than devolution is the logical path. The circle could be squared if all decisions and powers delegated to regions and cities relate to implementation.
  • There needs to be clear alignment, and potential dis-alignment, of incentives between track and train.

Martin Vickers, chair of the APPRG, said: “While some may say we’ve been here before, it is important that any structural change not only focuses on aligning sometimes competing priorities, but also maintains the industry’s primary role – serving its customers. The group supports better outcomes for passengers and freight. If the pitfalls we’ve identified are avoided, the case for a new arm’s length body is strong. I commend our report to Keith Williams and his team, ahead of the government releasing its rail white paper.”

The APPRG panellists were Martin Vickers (chair), Louise Ellman, Lord Berkeley (secretary) and Lord Scriven. The group was aided by transport specialists Burges Salmon LLP and T&I Communications Ltd.

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