THE chairman of TransWilts has told the Government’s Williams Review of the UK railways of their importance in maintaining and developing communities.

Paul Johnson said: “Rail plays an important part in connecting communities, with the local rail station often at the heart of cities and towns.

“It can support social and economic development and help support diversity and inclusion within communities.

“Our role is improving rail connections in the local communities and improving the community engagement with stations and services.”

He was speaking as new evidence published by transport charity Campaign for Better Transport raises concerns that the Government’s Review could miss its chance to maximise the social, economic and environmental benefits of rail.

The campaign’s research shows the UK’s rail network is not serving all parts of society or reducing its environmental impacts as effectively as it must and that, at present, the Williams Review is not adequately addressing these issues.

Research undertaken by the charity, along with industry consultants Teneo, says if the review focuses too narrowly on railway operational issues it will be unlikely to lead to the ambitious recommendations for reform that passengers and the economy need.

The charity urged the Government’s Rail Review to ensure its evidence base and objectives are clearer before progressing onto the industry proposals for new structures.

Darren Shirley, the CBT Chief Executive, said: “It’s clear from our research that the railways have the potential to deliver huge economic, social and environmental benefits to communities and the country as a whole.

“Passengers want and deserve a railway that delivers value for money and is run effectively; communities deserve a rail network that delivers access to jobs and opportunities; and the country deserves a rail network that provides economic and environmental benefits.

“The Government’s Rail Review must look at not just how to run the railways, but what kind of railway we want for the future so any reforms are designed to ensure benefits reach all parts of society.

“Alongside this, there must be a fundamental overhaul of the fares and ticketing system, including how fare rises are set.”Matt Lovering, Senior Managing Director and Head of Transport at Teneo, said: “The railway is one of the country’s great social and economic assets. “But the country - and the role that the rail network plays within it - has changed immeasurably since the railways were privatised. The difficulties the rail industry is currently facing demonstrate that it is struggling to respond to those changes.“As a result, there is a growing consensus that the rail industry in the UK needs to change, and that the structure of the last 25 years that has helped transform the railways since privatisation needs radical reform. “The Williams Review offers the framework to deliver that reform. But if that framework is to endure, it is essential that there is an agreement on the goals the rail network needs to achieve for passengers, businesses and communities and a clear understanding of the current and emerging barriers to achieving those outcomes. “We are delighted to have worked with Campaign for Better Transport to prepare this report to inform the debate around the goals and challenges, and highlight the key issues that can form the basis of a forthcoming restructuring of the industry.”The research has been published by Campaign for Better Transport as part of its submission to the Williams Rail Review Call for Evidence on objectives and assessment criteria.

Meanwhile, TransWilts has completely revised its website to better reflect the 2018 Community Development Strategy as well as to support and inform Wiltshire community rail passengers and visitors.

Mr Johnson said: “We hope you like what we have done - we are rather pleased with the result. We are grateful for an ACoRP 50 per cent grant which enabled us to make this upgrade possible - plus a lot of effort from TransWilts.

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