Far from providing stability, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald says the recently launched Rail Review has caused “paralysis and confusion” across the industry by creating a “further layer of uncertainty”.
Although agreeing that urgent reform is needed, the Labour politician believes that events will force the government to act before the review’s chair Keith Williams reports back next year.
Greater Anglia’s need for £80 million support from parent company Nederlandse Spoorwegen and other “similarly vulnerable” franchises are evidence that unravelling is already underway, he added.
McDonald was speaking to a room of industry suppliers at the Rail Forum Midlands’ annual conference in Derby on October 18.
He said it was important the supply industry understands Labour’s vision for public ownership and long-term investment in the country’s railway and also took the opportunity to criticise transport secretary Chris Grayling and the Rail Review.
Promising the most significant review of the country’s railways since privatisation, the review, which was launched by Grayling at the end of September, will look at the structure of the whole industry, including increasing integration between track and train, regional partnerships and improving value for money for passengers and taxpayers.
McDonald added: “I don’t believe the government’s Rail Review will address the damaging disconnect and disfunction that we see all too often.
“In fact, can it even be called a review when it excludes Network Rail, the existing franchises or the role of [the Department for Transport] or the regulator. It won’t consider the industry’s productivity problem or the needs of rail freight.
“We don’t need another review to tell us the rail industry needs fundamental reform.”