Trains

The government should not be in charge of day-to-day operations of the UK’s railway networks, a major review has found.

Keith Williams, the former boss of British Airways, said the government should be limited to budget decisions and overall rail policy. Instead, he has recommended a ‘Fat Controller’ type figure and body to manage operations.

Mr Williams, whose review will be published later in the year, also called for rail franchises to be awarded based on performance-related targets, mainly punctuality. In December, official figures showed rail punctuality fell to its lowest point in 13 years.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Williams said “someone needs to be accountable to the public” and stressed that an independent body would be “key for regaining public trust”.

The review is also expected to call for an overhaul of pricing and ticketing systems across the UK. It is set to recommend a national system which allows third party organisations such as thetrainline.com to give passengers improved methods of purchasing tickets. Mr Williams said: “Pay-as-you-go across regions and cities has been difficult to implement because of the fares system that exists today.”

However, there is criticism and scepticism of the review from unions.

Mick Cash, general secretary of rail union RMT, said: “Keith Williams has been hand-picked by Chris Grayling and the Tories to try and get them off the hook over the privatised chaos on our railways.”

He added: “RMT also warned that Keith Williams would side 100% with his big-business mates and duck the issue of public ownership of the railways – the option supported by over two-thirds of the British people.

“He has and after months of deliberation has come up with the classic cop-out of another unaccountable quango.”