With the autumn nights drawing in, it’s time for an update from the Stephenson Harwood rail team. In this edition:
- Legal directory success
- Thought leadership – technology, renationalisation and the "B" word
- Williams Review – where are we now?
Legal directory success
The Stephenson Harwood rail team are delighted to have been recognised for the strength of its rail practice in the latest editions of both Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners. The team remains in the highest band for Rail in Legal 500 and Rail: Franchising in Chambers and Partners, as well as being recognised for its strengths in Rail: Rolling Stock and Rail: Projects and Infrastructure. Rail partners Tammy Samuel and Suzanne Tarplee are named as “Leading Individuals”, with new rail partner Darren Fodey named as a “Next Generation Partner”.
We have received wonderful comments about the rail team as a whole such as “The team brings a common-sense approach; it is always enthusiastic and knowledgeable, with the ability to bring different sector thinking to the table.” and “It is an excellent commercial team with fantastic knowledge of the sector.”. We all appreciate this recognition and would like to thank all of those who have contributed.
Thought leadership – technology, renationalisation and the "B" word
As ever, members of the Stephenson Harwood rail team have been setting out their thoughts on a range of issues affecting the rail industry. You may well have seen in Rail Professional the first articles in our series on technology in the rail industry. Innovation and technology are likely to form part of the recommendations of the Williams Review and this series sets out some of the issues to be thinking about.
So far, we have offered our thoughts on:
- Smart ticketing by senior associate David Berry and rail partner Suzanne Tarplee
- Technology and passenger benefits by associate Bobbie Bickerton and rail partner Tammy Samuel
Coming up soon in Rail Professional, David Berry and rail partner Darren Fodey look at “Big Data” and its uses in the rail industry, with cyber security and data protection to follow.
With the Labour party conference committing once again to renationalisation of the rail industry (as if key elements of it aren’t already effectively nationalised) rail partners Tammy Samuel and Darren Fodey write for LexisNexis on renationalisation and the Williams Review. Click here to see their thoughts.
The “B” word
Readers cannot fail to have missed the ongoing developments in relation to Brexit over the summer and early autumn. Rail partners Lisa Marks and Darren Fodey have considered “What would the impact of a “no-deal” Brexit have on Rail Finance?” for Lexis Nexis.
Williams Review - where are we now?
In our previous series of articles on the Williams Review, we noted that many of the submissions to the Review pointed to the need for an independent “guiding mind” for coordinating the railway. Whilst pre-empting the outcomes of the Review, perhaps unsurprisingly the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, recently vowed to set up such a new body. At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Shapps promised the establishment of a new “fat controller”, independent from the Department for Transport (DfT) which would be in charge of the railway and how the railway runs, including letting the contracts for passenger services.
It’s not clear that this move alone would be enough to end the much-maligned “blame game” which goes on between operators, Network Rail and the DfT. A new body will need to drive new behaviours, as well as manage a franchising regime which is consistent with the recommendations of the Review. It should not simply be the same people wearing a new hat adopting the same old habits.
The Queen’s Speech – published earlier this week – reiterates that reform of the railways is on the cards once the Williams Review has been published. Reviewing the background briefing documents, the message is perhaps not quite as dramatic as sections of the press have reported. There is not – at this stage – a commitment to abolish rail franchising altogether. It recognises that the Review is underway and change can be expected – but it does not pre-empt what Williams might say about the structure of the industry. For the most part, there is nothing new in the briefing documents than we know is already on the cards – the possibility of simplified ticketing, greater devolution and a focus on performance, with the need for the “fat controller”. The White Paper remains on track to be published “later this autumn”.
We look forward to seeing the Review’s White Paper soon. We would hope that, at a minimum, it sets out how decision-making and coordination within the new body would drive improvements. We are also expecting to see recommendations about changes to the fares regime and the franchising system more generally. Watch this space!