“All Change”

The impact of the Queen’s speech, the Williams Review and Brexit on the Rail sector.

Despite the fact that the Williams Review is yet to be published, we were given a glimpse of what to expect in the State Opening of Parliament last month. For the rail sector, the headline of the Queen’s speech was that the discredited UK rail franchise model is to undergo a radical overhaul. Whilst the fact of the overhaul was not a surprise, the timing of it was unexpected, as it had been expected that this would be announced by Keith Williams, Chair of the Williams Review, and therefore the person who has been commissioned to review the rail network, rather than the Queen herself.

Normally the content of the Queen’s speech is well known ahead of time, but on this occasion the Prime Minister had slipped in a single line into her speech to address the rail sector. “Proposals on railway reform will be brought forward”, she stated, pre-empting the results of the Williams’ Review by several months and effectively instructing the Government to tear up the current franchise model and start again.

This acceleration sent a minor shockwave through a number of our TOC Clients. Although the announcement of reform had been expected, the adjustment of the timescales was a surprise. Despite that, the announcement has been well received by many of our clients, as it shows intent from the Government to take forward the outcome of the Williams Review in this Parliamentary term. Despite the fact that the conclusions of Keith Williams’ review are yet to be published, there is comfort to be taken from the narrative to date and the focus the Government is putting on improving UK Rail from both a passenger and freight perspective.

In light of the Queen’s Speech, the results of the Williams Review will now be published as a Government white paper, setting it out as a foundation for legislation and making the outcome more significant for those operating in the sector. It will also incorporate responses provided by the TOC and the wider sector earlier in the year.

Alongside this, the sector will also have deal with the impact of Brexit which, if it is implemented at the end of the month, may well lead to a General Election and a new Queen’s Speech shortly after.

With all this uncertainty, we are supporting and partnering with an ever increasing number of Rail Clients who are preparing their businesses and organisations for what will be both exciting and challenging times ahead.

With all the changes likely to impact your business following the Williams’ Review and Brexit, if you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent could help you overcome both your business or people challenges, please contact Nick Behan on +44 (0) 0207 484 0106 or via nick.behan@normanbroadbent.com