Train operators must be allowed to break out of their present-day straitjackets and be free to manage their businesses solely for their passengers, if Great British Railways is to succeed.
The need to look outwards, and to not have to seek permission to purchase even the smallest item, was the message put to MPs at the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group’s meeting to discuss the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail on June 29, by Rail Delivery Group Director General Andy Bagnall.
The lack of an electrification pipeline was also stressed by most of the speakers to a large online audience.
“We have all wanted reform for many years,” was Bagnall’s verdict of the Williams-Shapps White Paper.
In a clear message to the Government and Network Rail, he added: “We want to see it happen faster. GBR needs a new culture that must be focused on the customer, and not be production-led.”
Bagnall repeated his concerns that many of the problems for operators over the past three decades have stemmed from the lack of flexibility in their contracts. COVID-19 has now shown the importance of being able to respond quickly to changing traffic patterns.
Bagnall’s further remarks about the apparent lack of a firm commitment to change the rule book on fares, and to introduce more equality, was echoed by Grand Central Managing Director Richard McClean.
He spoke of passenger confidence being eroded, and said the key to recovering business was more collaboration between government and train operators. He added that lowering the cost of walk-on fares is on his, and everyone’s, mind.
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