Rail review chief says industry must move to seamless journeys

Keith Williams


Rail review chairman Keith Williams has placed integrating rail services into wider public transport networks as one of the core objectives for reforming the railway.

Speaking at the Accelerate Rail conference in London, Williams said the industry needed to prepare for the impact of changing social, political and technological trends on travel demand and consumer expectations of rail services, and he was surprised these issues had not featured more prominently in his discussions with rail industry leaders to date. In addition, he pointed out that automation, open data and new transport models could be “serious disrupters” in the travel market, further impacting future demand for rail.

The integration of modes could deliver massive benefits to passengers and taxpayers

“While I have no crystal ball, one thing the sector certainly needs to be ready for is the move towards more integrated transport networks, with modes working together to provide a seamless journey,” he said. “The integration of modes could deliver massive benefits to passengers and taxpayers.”

The emphasis on integrated transport during the rail review was reflected in it being identified in the key criteria, published this week, that the review team will use to create a new model for the rail industry, alongside previously announced themes such as building passenger and public trust, clear accountability  and increased efficiency.

However, Williams said success would depend on the industry’s ability to innovate and collaborate and that it was “a long way behind” in key areas that could support integration such as digital ticketing which was “the obvious place to start”.

He said the Rail Delivery Group had pointed out to him that the current industry model created barriers to operators investing in technological changes and this needed to be overcome.

“This, to my mind, ignores the reality that at some stage in the future the industry will have to serve its customers almost wholly if not totally in a digital way,” said Williams. “The bottom line is that all the evidence is telling us that sector needs to be more adaptable to change, and part of the solution is creating the conditions that enhance its ability to innovate.”

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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