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Grant Thornton reaction: Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

Jason Hurst, Director, Public Services Advisory, Grant Thornton UK LLP, comments on the ‘Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail’ paper published today, outlining the government's plan to transform the railways in Great Britain:

“After spending over 12 months as part of the Rail Review team supporting Keith Williams and the DfT, it is great to see the White Paper published today. The ‘root and branch’ Review is one of the biggest shake ups for 25 years and marks a significant moment in our rail industry. The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail focuses rightly on meeting the needs of passengers and simplifying the complex industry structure and approach to fares.

 “The introduction of the new public body, Great British Railways, will be critical to the simplification of the system. Under its leadership as the industry’s ‘guiding mind’, the new organisation will need to be agile and flexible to react to changing passenger needs, enable innovation, and meet the government’s decarbonisation agenda. 

 “The Review also rightly recognises that Passenger Services Contracts are not a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but include a new toolkit of incentives, ensuring that operators meet the required standards which should help to drive improvements in areas such as punctuality, reliability and cleanliness, along with incentivising passenger growth.

 “The Review has a number of commendable aims, and the key challenge now is to implement the promises set out given that no part of the sector is untouched. There will need to be a clear approach to devolved authorities, who will be key to ensuring passenger priorities are met, reflecting local knowledge and maximising social value from the railway.

 “As the government seeks to ‘Build back better’ as the country comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also more important than ever that the skills base within the rail industry is maintained and developed.”

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