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| 1 minute read

Reflecting on the Bradshaw Address

The anticipation was palpable ahead of this year's Bradshaw Address, expectations were high that Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper MP would announce some bold decisions to get UK rail back on track.

I'm struck by the Secretary of State's clear recognition of the challenges our industry currently faces, from the experience of typical customers, through the desire to resolve the disputes holding back recovery to sharp scrutiny on public spending.

The headlines are naturally being made by ticketing reform, the role of the private sector, and greater coherence and accountability for the network. But beneath those headlines, I found three important comments that resonated with our railway challenges today and in the years ahead.

  1. Rail's customers have changed and Government knows it. The Secretary of State as clear with some really marked statistics which should given everyone pause to think - "£1,000 per household" has been spent by Government on UK rail since the pandemic, "subsidising an industry that delivers only 1.5% and 2% of all journeys that are taken by the public". The relevance and value for money of rail is under intense scrutiny. If you didn't understand it before, it's right there.
  2. Despite the fiscal challenges, a real sense of urgency over the need for a shift in the pace of change comes across. The Secretary of State acknowledged the underlying issues that led to Keith Williams' recommendations remained, from fragmentation and a need to focus on customer outcomes, and he said "delivering that policy, moving from the words to action.. is my priority" and "we’ll pick up the pace of reform".
  3. Reform needs to deliver rational governance for operational matters, which is currently hampered by post-Covid contractual sticking plasters. It makes no sense in any railway organisation design for the Secretary of State to be required to approve the allocation of scarce network capacity, as he said "I shouldn’t need to approve whether a passenger train ought to be removed from the timetable to allow a freight train to run instead".

So, there is plenty to think about and really strong direction, notwithstanding that there is no magic wand for today's challenges.