Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
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The future shape of UK rail services following the Williams Rail Review

Morning, Wednesday, 16th September 2020

Online Conference

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will focus on the future shape of rail services across the UK.

It will be an opportunity for key stakeholders and policymakers to consider how the Government should take forward the expected conclusions from the Williams Rail Review, which is expected later this year.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the future for the franchising model, and control of mainline and local rail networks
  • the long-term model for financing the railways, and for subsidies and returns for rail operators
  • delivery of improved consumer services
  • options for reform of the ticketing system - such as simplification of fares and tickets, introducing flexible ticketing and part time season passes, and addressing overcharging and the differentials between off-peak and peak prices

Of course the conference takes place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect discussion on:

  • the impact on rail business, services and operations - and on staff safety and wellbeing - and what can be learned from the challenges that have been faced and the way the sector has adapted
  • the outlook going forward, and what will be needed from policymakers - and the industry itself - to support the sector, its partners and customers as the crisis subsides and into the future

The agenda:

  • Priorities for reforming the UK rail system and recommendations from the Williams Rail Review - new commercial models, improving financial sustainability, and delivering value for passengers
  • Designing a user-first service and improving the passenger experience:
    • Progress on delay and repay and enhancing consumer protection - industry accountability, improving operator services, and setting guidance for safe journeys post COVID
    • Performance, reliability, and the future of commercial train services - enhancing frequency, connectivity between cities, and the expansion of modern rolling stock
    • Latest thinking on nationalising UK rail operations and restoring efficient services
  • COVID-19 disruption, resuming rail services, and addressing safety challenges - controlling limited capacity, designing social distancing, and protecting the health of passengers, staff and operators
  • Developing a rail network fit for modern infrastructure, industry and passenger requirements:
    • Delivering new rail infrastructure in the UK and unlocking capacity - relieving congestion, enhancing regional connectivity, and enabling new rolling stock on the tracks
    • Expanding the business case of rail freight on the UK network - minimising commerce delays, decarbonising trade, and supporting industry and logistics
    • Latest thinking on track and train arrangements and improving financial sustainability
    • Planning for long-term network operation - building up domestic supply chains, and rail electrification for efficiency and low-carbon journeys
  • Creating a digital railway for passengers and the network - data, improving signalling, and cost reduction
  • Next steps for managing UK rail services - strengthening accountability and incentive structures for rail operators, and improving passenger protection and experience

Why this is relevant now - the context:

It takes place with:

  • The ongoing Williams Rail Review, and a White Paper expected for publication later this year
  • Government renationalising several rail franchises for poor performance, including the recent taking control of Northern Rail service management
  • The COVID-19 health emergency, with:
  • The Spring Budget and commitment to investment in rail projects across the UK as part of a £640bn package of public infrastructure investment
  • Network Rail’s CP6 (Control Period 6) with priorities for project delivery and improving passenger services
  • The development of a digital and innovative rail network, and the Government’s transport decarbonisation plan expected to be published later this yea

The discussion in detail:

Designing a user-first model

  • options for improving the passenger experience, including:
    • more effective delay and repay schemes
    • a simplified and accessible compensation framework
    • incorporating the passenger voice at the centre of system reform
  • the future of passenger ticketing reform and ensuring prices reflect value for money and services, as well as facilitate growing consumer preference for flexible journeys
  • steps for improving the reliability of train operations - increasing service frequency, and holding rail franchises to account for poor performance

Resuming services - and how this can be achieved in the wake of the challenges of the COVID-19 health emergency, with discussion on:

  • strategies for integrating social distancing measures whilst minimising the impact on passenger journeys, capacity, and financial sustainability of operations
  • ensuring the protection of health and wellbeing for passengers, staff, and train operators at all times
  • public engagement on delivering safe and secure rail services for passengers, and encouraging commuters to return to the rail network

The levelling up policy agenda - the role of rail in helping to tackle economic inequalities in UK regions, and how this fits within the national programme of regional devolution, looking at:

  • priorities for investment in rail infrastructure modernisation - enhancing regional connectivity and the capacity of rolling stock
  • how to realise the opportunities that increasing the frequency of regional services and city connectivity can present for regional economic growth

Modernisation - the Government’s ambition to upgrade the UK’s rail infrastructure, with discussion on:

  • design of a long-term pipeline - and delivering projects to relieve congestion, expand the electrification of rail, improve efficiency, and enhance passenger numbers
  • engagement with rail industry stakeholders - including domestic supply chains and rail freight - to improve the flow of trade, efficiency of project delivery, and the volume of low-carbon commerce

Innovation - priorities for improving operations and the passenger experience, including:

  • technology to improve signalling, reporting of failures, and passenger journey information and experience
  • utilising data to enhance smart ticketing, reduce system and consumer costs, and help decarbonise rail operations
  • the role of SMEs, with funding for demonstrating new rail technologies being administered by Innovate UK

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

This one looks like being no different. Places have already been reserved by officials from the Office of Rail and Road; the Department for Transport; ; BEIS; MHCLG; Transport for Wales; Transport Scotland and the Department for International Trade.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

John Larkinson

Interim Chief Executive officer, Office of Rail and Road

Keynote Speakers

Mick Whelan

General Secretary, ASLEF

Neil Connor

Client Executive, Public Transport, Fujitsu

Brioney Thomas

Partner, and Head of Transport, Burges Salmon

John Larkinson

Interim Chief Executive officer, Office of Rail and Road


Professor Chris Nash

Research Professor, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds

Maggie Simpson

Director General, Rail Freight Group

Phil Bulman

Partner, Vendigital

Anthony Smith

Chief Executive, Transport Focus

Kate Jennings

Policy Director, Railway Industry Association

Stewart Fox-Mills

Director, Commercial, Abellio