• Stephen Hammond MP welcomes the long-awaited Williams-Shapps Review as an encouraging sign of a cheaper, cleaner, and greener rail network but emphasises that the private sector must be kept at the centre of this new model.
  • Public Policy Projects, a global cross-party and independent policy institute, recognises that these reforms are a step in the right direction but will continue to evaluate whether this brings about genuine change and a passenger-focused network fit for the needs of the future. 
  • Questions raised over whether the Review goes far enough in its measures to encourage passengers back to the network and how it can be implemented in practice, for the explicit benefit of passengers and industry whilst maintaining value for money. 

In light of the damaging impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the rail industry and ongoing changes taking place in the sector especially surrounding decarbonisation and high-speed development, the imminent Williams-Shapps Rail Review is a welcome move towards making necessary improvements to the rail network.

These proposals will require the full commitment from industry and government to ensure the network makes the step change required to bring passengers back to a modern and innovative service equipped for the UK’s future needs.

Stephen Hammond MP former Transport Minister, and Ben Howlett, Managing Director of Public Policy Projects respond to the publication of the Review.

Stephen Hammond MP and former Transport Minister, and Deputy Chair, Infrastructure, at Public Policy Projects, said: 

“I welcome the publication of the long-awaited Williams-Shapps Rail Review and hope that this will be a stepping-stone to not only recovery but creating the cheaper, cleaner and greener rail network that can meet the needs of our country in the 21st century. At Public Policy Projects we are currently undertaking a major piece of work examining the future of the UK rail industry and it was encouraging to see so many common themes and proposals that will hopefully create the passenger-focused rail revolution that PPP and the industry have been calling for.

Whilst I appreciate the intention of the new Great British Railways body to bring infrastructure and contracting together which could provide a more integrated and flexible approach to rail delivery across the UK. It must ensure the greater role for the private sector that is promised and should seek to build on the success the privatised rail industry has delivered in the last thirty years. The next steps towards creating a rail network for the future can only be achieved by retaining the skills and potential within the private sector and ensuring we have an efficient and value for money system. This body must also challenge the technology resistant and costly practices of previous infrastructure provision. As well as proving that the proposed new Passenger Service Contracts can meet the demand and risk challenges of the next decade and beyond; the new system must ensure that the market and the private sector remain central to demonstrate its ability to deliver a new start and the large-scale necessary change across the network.

The announcement of a flexible and digital ticketing system will be crucial in delivering a more accessible service and enticing passengers to return to the railway. The days of packed commuter trains are unlikely to return soon, and this is a welcome step in opening-up the opportunities of the leisure and off-peak markets.

Innovation across every part of the network will be crucial in improving efficiency and ensuring that the railways can meet the challenges of “green” and “clean”. Rail will play a central role as we head towards net-zero and it is vital that the system is truly equipped to meet the decarbonisation challenge as well as ready to be a more sustainable option for both passengers and freight. Any cost-cutting measures must not come at the expense of quality of the service on offer nor the long-term necessity of innovation and as Network Rail put this review into action, they must create a railway not just for today, but for tomorrow.”

Ben Howlett, Managing Director, Public Policy Projects, and Non-Executive Director, CPMS Group, said: 

“The pandemic has been devastating for our rail sector and today’s announcement will do a lot to improve performance and efficiency. Whilst flexible ticketing is a step in the right direction, there is a great deal more that the Government can do to encourage passengers back onto the network. However, replicating a system that failed prior to privatisation and calling it by another name, will not inspire the public back onto the network.

“Whilst many express dissatisfaction of Network Rail, a pandemic is no time for a top down reorganisation. There are better things to focus on as we exit a crisis.

“Public Policy Projects rail inquiry will evaluate how the Williams-Shapps Review and the White Paper can be implemented in practice, for the explicit benefit of passengers and industry whilst maintaining value for money.”

Public Policy Projects is currently undertaking a thorough analysis of the future of the rail sector in a project led by Stephen Hammond MP. Many of the themes emerging in that project by industry and government are reflected in the Review. The findings and recommendations of the project are due to be published in September.



Notes to Editors


For interview requests and further information, please contact Infrastructure Policy and Publications Editor Genevieve Redgrave at genevieve.redgrave@publicpolicyprojects.com or at +44 7716641353


Public Policy Projects (PPP) produces a range of white papers, State of the Nation reports and print publications for a global audience. Led by senior thought leaders within the health and infrastructure sectors, these reports are designed to provide intelligence for the future development of the sector.