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Smart thinking drives rail reform

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A national smart card railway ticketing system, greater freedom for longer franchises and local devolution are among the ideas set forward by the Secretary of State.

The new Command Paper backs the McNulty report and hopes to cut costs by £3.5 billion a year.

Justine Greening reinforced moves already being made by the industry to bring costs down and end the shortcomings of the train/track split.

Says Justine Greening, ‘Network Rail is really grasping the nettle in responding to the challenges facing the rail industry.’

The government wants to devolve more power to professional railway people.

‘We will seek where appropriate to devolve more accountability and decision-making to the professionals who run our railways.’

This policy includes more power for PTEs and local authorities as well as train companies. With over 14 franchises up for re-letting over the next four years the government plans to introduce new long term commitment regimes and end DfT micro-management.

Investment and better value for money will be expected in return for greater profitability and security. The new moves have been broadly welcomed by rail chiefs, although union leaders expressed concerns over potential staff reduction at stations.

Says Tim O’Toole, who heads the Rail Development Group set up by the industry in the wake of the McNulty review, ‘The Rail Delivery Group is pleased that the Government has recognised that the Group is talking and shaping the industry’s agenda for a sustained programme of improved management and running of the rail network.’


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