Britain’s railway must lead change, urges industry chief
Britain’s railway is at a crucial turning point and must lead change to keep growing and improving, a senior industry figure will say today (28 February).
“We are at a crucial turning point, and must manage change, embrace change and lead change now," Chris Burchell, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group and Managing Director of UK Trains at Arriva, will say in a keynote speech to the rail industry.
Mr Burchell, giving the annual George Bradshaw address, will set out a vision of a dynamic railway “driven by customer demand” and call for a new relationship between the railway and its customers, its workforce and governments.
Mr Burchell will say:
“Some of the things we have done to improve in the past, such as making trains and infrastructure more reliable, are no longer enough given how busy the railway has become.
“There are those who believe that the way forward is to go backwards, to the structures and systems of the past, in pursuit of the golden age of rail. If such an age ever existed it was only in our imaginations. It certainly didn’t exist for many of the customers who experienced it.
“If we want to be true to our past, we need to embrace change. And we don’t have long to do it."
Mr Burchell will call upon the railway to forge and focus on three key relationships to ensure success:
- A new relationship with our customers: “We need to do what they demand: clean, safe, comfortable trains which run on time, fares which seem reasonable, Wi-Fi and a seat, and clear information and redress when things go wrong. We need to harness technology to drive further improvement. Doing the right things in the right way builds customer confidence and trust.”
- A new partnership with our people: “I want to see the ongoing industrial disputes resolved as quickly as possible, and all sides need to recognise that the way we work is changing. There can be no attachment to old ways of working. Failure to modernise puts future investment at significant risk.”
- A new partnership with governments: “As we look to greater democratic devolution to Britain’s nations and regions, and 20 years on from the end of British Rail, it is time for a more mature relationship between industry and governments. We need freedom to innovate, to grow and to access new sources of investment. We need governments to help us where they can, and to remove any obstacles which may hinder progress.”
Mr Burchell believes trials by train companies to simplify fares, which could lead to the most fundamental reform for 30 years, are “a great example of a tough nut to crack” where industry and government are working together to deliver the kind of change that is needed.