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‘Crucial turning point’ means we don’t have long to embrace change, RDG chair warns

The rail industry in the UK finds itself at a “crucial turning point” and must push and lead change to positively transform the train network, a leading industry figure will announce at a key note speech later today.

Chairman of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and managing director of UK trains at Arriva, Chris Burchell, will today give the annual George Bradshaw address to leading rail industry figures – and will urge them to manage, embrace and lead changes to fix the state of Britain’s rail.

In particular, Burchell will press for the need for a railway that is “driven by customer demand” as he calls for a renewed, modern relationship between customer and rail operator, as well as between the industry workforce and governments.

Setting out his vision for a “dynamic” railway, 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.”

The speech will focus on a number of points, one being the need for operators to provide reliable, reasonably priced and comfortable services for customers.

“Doing the right things in the right way builds customer confidence and trust,” he will add.

Burchell’s message will come one day after watchdog Which? demanded that rail operators treat their customers more fairly by bringing “unlawful” fare compensation schemes to an end.

The RDG boss will also make reference to the ongoing industrial action that is wreaking havoc on routes across the country, by calling for rail workers to allow operators to modernise their ways of working.

“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,” Burchell will say.

One of the biggest causes for disruption has been RMT and Aslef’s dispute with Southern and Merseyrail over the move to DOO trains that have no need for a guard to manually operate carriage doors on services.

Burchell will add: “There can be no attachment to old ways of working. Failure to modernise puts future investment at significant risk.”

Finally, the speech will also push for a new partnership between the industry and the government that calls for a “mature” relationship between Whitehall and operators as powers continue to be devolved to Britain’s regions, adding that companies “need the freedom to innovate, to grow and to access new sources of investment”.

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Noam Bleicher   01/03/2017 at 11:49

If the industry wants a renewed relationship with the customer, then it needs to face the customer in a way that suits the customer, not the industry or the DfT. The current franchise map is confusing for the user and leads to wildly differing service standards for similar users in different parts of the country. It's a classic production-led approach and is more reminiscent of BR regions than anything else. The network nationwide has distinct customer segments which need serving by industry sectors delivering consistent standards matched to customer needs - Intercity/HS, Interurban, Rural and lastly City Overground/S-Bahn for all urban all-stops services in towns and cities.

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