The Last Word


Shaw report recommendations need quick implementation

Source: RTM Apr/May 16

Adrian Shaw, senior vice-president of global programme management and rail sector head, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at Aecom, reflects on the Shaw Report’s recommendations and the need for changes to be adopted quickly.

Nicola Shaw’s much-anticipated report on the future financing and structuring of Network Rail did not recommend breaking up the network as some had predicted. Instead, the report took a measured approach, proposing companies consider innovative approaches to attracting private sector investment in the form of route-based concessions or investment in specific infrastructure projects. 

Although the full-scale break-up of the rail network was ruled out, deeper route devolution was encouraged. However, as Network Rail has already begun the process of devolution, it remains to be seen how deeper route devolution will work in practice. It could mean further changes to the flow of funding, with train operating companies (TOCs) paying for devolved routes and having more input into how railways are run. 

TOCs currently rely on revenue from passenger fares and that has an influence on rolling stock and improved passenger services. Taking a shared approach with infrastructure owners to station oversight development could lead to additional funds being redirected into improving services.  

Another area that requires further guidance is the recommendation for innovation and technological advancement through private sector investment. While this would certainly be a welcome move, the introduction of technology has at times been stifled due to the complexity of integrating it into the UK’s system. More clarity on the ‘how’ and ‘when’ is therefore needed. 

Route for the north 

While more details on some of the report’s recommendations are still required, it is encouraging to see other notable changes. The creation of a route for the north, bringing the west and east coast main lines under more local control where they cross the region, is a positive step that brings the concept of the Northern Powerhouse closer to reality. This commitment to the Northern Powerhouse is of course welcome, but funding will remain a challenge. 

Shaw’s recommendation for more innovative ways of attracting private sector investment certainly needs to be explored. Foreign direct investment should be considered to supplement the public purse. This will help achieve the truly transformational change needed to turn northern cities and towns into a connected economy. But in order for this to happen, local, regional and planning authorities must create the right conditions to attract this inward investment. 

The report’s recommendation to focus on improving freight routes is also welcome and will be key to reducing the current dependence on heavy road haulage. However, the present network simply cannot cope with a significant increase where mixed use with passenger services will be the only outcome, so dedicated freight lines should be considered. These would run parallel to passenger lines, with existing passenger lines only used in very constrained areas. 

Addressing skills 

Perhaps the most significant recommendation in the report is the need to address the skills pipeline. This issue is often talked about but, in my opinion, cannot be overstated. With many of the rail industry’s most experienced engineers approaching retirement, improving the UK’s skillset and encouraging more people into the sector are essential for delivery. This issue is by no means new and remains perhaps the biggest challenge the rail industry faces. 

The government will publish its response to the report later this year. If the report’s recommendations are accepted, changes will need to be adopted relatively quickly in time for the start of the next Control Period in 2019. But with some major rail projects expected to be progressed much sooner than 2019, an industry-wide approach to addressing the skills pipeline cannot come soon enough.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email



There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Network Rail’s subsidiary secures systems integrator contract in Australia

14/12/2018Network Rail’s subsidiary secures systems integrator contract in Australia

The Australian subsidiary of Network Rail Consulting has been named as the systems integrator for the Digital Systems Program in Sydney by Transp... more >
Infrastructure giant Amey to be sold to private equity firm in new year

14/12/2018Infrastructure giant Amey to be sold to private equity firm in new year

 Infrastructure giant Amey is expected to be sold to a private equity firm in the new year, according to reports. The Financial Times b... more >
HS2 and Crossrail suppliers admit to running ‘illegal cartel’ for 7 years

14/12/2018HS2 and Crossrail suppliers admit to running ‘illegal cartel’ for 7 years

Two UK rail suppliers to major projects such as HS1, HS2, and Crossrail have admitted to operating an illegal cartel for almost seven years with ... more >
Network Rail fined £200k after elderly signaller suffers ‘life-changing injuries’ in level crossing

13/12/2018Network Rail fined £200k after elderly signaller suffers ‘life-changing injuries’ in level crossing

Network Rail has been fined £200,000 after a 65-year-old man suffered life-changing injuries at a level crossing in Kent over three years a... more >


Passenger safety: Respect the edge

27/11/2018Passenger safety: Respect the edge

Claire Coward, communications lead at the RSSB, discusses her organisation’s latest passenger safety campaign. Incidents at the platfo... more >
Night Tube: The twilight economy

27/11/2018Night Tube: The twilight economy

Dr David Lutton, executive director of economy and tax at London First, argues that the capital’s night-time economy is just starting its j... more >
Monitoring the performance of earthworks

27/11/2018Monitoring the performance of earthworks

Dr Joel Smethurst, associate professor in geotechnical engineering, and Professor William Powrie, professor of geotechnical engineering, both of ... more >
Introducing iPort

20/11/2018Introducing iPort

Steve Freeman, managing director of iPort Rail, introduces the UK’s newest inland freight terminal. The UK’s newest inland rail ... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >


HS2 train race: making the case

20/11/2018HS2 train race: making the case

Bombardier and Hitachi’s commitment to providing the best HS2 rolling stock pitch to the government was signified with the launch of their ... more >
Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

09/11/2018Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

Sponsored interview  Anything that brings about safety and time-saving benefits is a valued improvement for the rail industry, which is w... more >
Taking to the skies

30/10/2018Taking to the skies

Network Rail’s commitment to driving innovation is best encapsulated by its latest scheme involving high-definition imagery drones, or UAVs... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

'the sleepers' daily blog

Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

27/11/2018Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

Olivia Brown, business development officer at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), an academic department of the University of Warwick, outlines th... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >