The railways have a crucial role to play in levelling up, and net carbon zero targets, but have been unable to fulfil their true potential. The Covid pandemic has had profound impacts on when and why people choose to travel, so the railways must adapt.

In 2021, the Government published its White Paper – the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. This sets the agenda for the way the railways need to change so that they continue to be part of the fabric of the UK economy. As the rail industry’s collaboration hub, RSSB is helping galvanise the debate and inform, support and deliver the right changes.

A key component of the Williams-Shapps Plan is the introduction of a new organisation, Great British Railways, which will be the guiding mind for public policy and the delivery of the railway to its customers. 

RSSB is working closely with the Great British Railways Transition Team, as well as other key influencers on the changes, including the Design Authority, the Technical Authority, Network Rail, and the Office of Rail and Road. The whole programme is led by the Government through the Department for Transport’s Rail Transformation team.

Implementing policy so that the White Paper becomes a reality is a huge challenge. There are five key areas of work:

  • policy 
  • legislation 
  • benefits 
  • sector design 
  • sector change. 

Influencing the shape of all five areas will be the first key output of the Williams-Shapps Plan, the Whole Industry Strategic Plan (WISP), due to be published later in 2022. 

The WISP will set out the 30-year plan and define what the railway requires to deliver for those who stand to benefit, the users, customers, taxpayers and wider economy and society in Britain.

There is still a lot to be done to work out exactly what sector reform looks like in practice, and to understand the challenges that industry faces. Our position as an independent and authoritative source of data, research and good practice means that we can support the reform agenda while ensuring rail does not lose sight of standards, safety, efficiency and sustainability.

We’re here to support you, our members, throughout this process. If you have any questions or want to talk to us about sector reform, please do get in touch with us via the Customer Portal.