Williams Rail Review: Rail suppliers should be central to delivering a better rail network in the future 

1 May 2019

The Williams Rail Review, being led by former British Airways Chairman Keith Williams, must take greater consideration of rail businesses that build, maintain and enhance the UK rail network, according to the Railway Industry Association (RIA), the trade body for the rail supply community.
In its submission to the latest Review consultation, which closed on 30 April, RIA highlighted a number of areas that need to be considered, including:

  • Providing a 30-year rail strategy with visibility of future infrastructure work, to ensure businesses can plan, invest and hire with confidence in future activity;
  • Removing ‘stop-start’ workloads in rolling stock, infrastructure and electrification projects, which can increase the cost by up to 30%;
  • Understanding the importance of the supply chain in improving efficiency and performance;
  • Ensuring the Review does not throw the industry into stasis whilst it does its work;
  • Better collaboration between the supply chain, Network Rail and Train Operators (e.g. around the track access process);
  • Attracting more private sector investment into the rail network; and
  • Promoting a more collaborative industry culture.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “The Williams Review is an opportunity to improve the UK rail network, taking a long-term holistic look at how it can best deliver for passengers, freight and the economy.

“Whilst it is clearly right to consider the best operating model for the railway, the Review should also investigate how we can optimally build, maintain and enhance our railways in the future too.

“In the recent Evidence Reports, published by the Review in February, there was only limited consideration of how the rail supply sector can support the Review’s work. Yet whatever the eventual model, this cannot be delivered without all parts of the railway - infrastructure, train operators and suppliers - working together. The Railway Industry Association and its members are committed to making that happen.

“For suppliers to play their part, rail businesses need to see greater visibility of upcoming work, understand how the private sector can get more involved in financing rail improvements, and they need consistency in workloads, including infrastructure, rolling stock and electrification, which is the optimal solution for intensively-used rail lines.

“Delivering on this brings significant cost reductions, better efficiency, and ultimately better services for passengers and freight, the central focus of the Review.

“So we urge Keith Williams and the Review team to give greater priority and consideration to the key role rail suppliers will play as they seek to develop their findings.”

Paul Plummer, Chief Executive at the Rail Delivery Group, said:  “The rail supply chain plays a critical role as part of the overall railway system, improving people’s journeys by delivering track improvements, station upgrades and thousands of new and refurbished carriages across the country. We welcome the proposals, in particular unlocking further investment in rail.
“We need a generational system upgrade to make the railway more focused on customers and more accountable, and working together we can deliver the railway that passengers want and this country needs for the next 25 years.”    

Notes to Editors
  1. RIA’s submission to the Williams Rail Review can be found here.
  2. About RIA: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the voice of the UK rail supply community. We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products. We promote and represent our members’ interests to policy makers, clients and other stakeholders in the UK and overseas. RIA has 275+ companies in membership in a sector that contributes £36 billion in economic growth and £11 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 600,000 people—more than the workforce of Birmingham. It is also a growing industry with the number of rail journeys expected to double over the next 25 years and freight set to grow significantly too. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number). RIA works to promote the importance of the rail system to UK plc, to help export UK expertise around the globe and to share best practice and innovation across the industry.

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