'There needs to be someone accountable for rail,' says man behind overarching review

Keith Williams. Photo: British Airways
Keith Williams. Photo: British Airways
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A new “independent guiding mind” for the rail industry would provide accountability where this has been lacking in the past.

That was the view of Keith Williams, who is tasked with reviewing the country’s railways ahead of a Government White Paper to overhaul the transportation network.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Transport Select Committee yesterday Mr Williams said the roles of “train and track” would be brought together by the organisation and he said: “There needs to be someone accountable for rail - track and train - and the running of the network. From everything the public have been saying they do want this to work as a network.”

A lack of accountability was one of the criticisms when timetables descended into chaos on Northern Trains in the North West and Govia Thameslink last year.

Then Transport Secretary Chris Graying said: “I don’t run the railways”.

And a subsequent investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) blamed a lack of “responsibility and accountability” and said passengers were “badly treated”.

The Government-commissioned review, which stemmed from that chaos, is expected to report in the next few weeks, with expectations that a series of reforms will be suggested.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers; union Aslef, speculated that a new model will be outlined, where instead of bidding for a franchise, operators will get a management contract to run services, with the Government more in control of fares.