Webinar: Michael Solomon Williams of Campaign for Better Transport

Published: 10 April, 2024 | Tags:

Michael Solomon Williams of Better Transport
Michael Solomon Williams (video still)

Michael Solomon Williams is Campaigns Manager with Better Transport (formerly Transport 2000).

Better Transport have a 50-year track record of advocacy for sustainable transport and campaigning for positive change.

This was the fifth presentation of the Petition Anniversay Webinar that took place on 20th March 2024. The webinar began with the petition analysis by BBET.

Better Transport was set up in 1973 in response to the branch line closures of the 1960s and the threat of more closures to come. Since then they have campaigned nationally for high-quality sustainable transport for all communities.

Recent campaign successes: capping bus fares at £2, station and branch line re-openings under their Expanding Railways campaign, fares and ticketing reform, saving the Day Travelcard from abandonment planned last January.

Research is a big part of what they do. To reopen branch lines they rated lines for both their viability and for the social, economic and environmental benefits they would bring if reopened. Recent successes in Dartmoor (Oakhampton) and Northumberland, there latter where an old freight line is about to be reopened for passenger use, having been closed for 40 years.

“It’s massively inspiring to see such a huge grassroots campaign.”

Michael Solomon Williams


On 19th March, Better Transport met with Andrea Pearson, the Head of International Rail at the Department for Transport, and brought up the subject of our campaign. Here are what they see as the obstacles.

  • EES is going to be a huge challentge over the next 18 months. HS1 want more entrants to the line but also cite EES as an obstacle.
  • The DfT currently don’t regard Ashford and Ebbsfleet stations as viable. They are short of border staff and can’t spare any for more stations.
  • Lack of political will – do we even want this to happen? Better Transport believe they have the tools to help us overcome this.


  • The tunnel is currently operating at 50% of its capacity, so there’s room for more entrants.
  • New entrants Evolyn, Heuro, Renfe. The DfT says they are not as developed as we might hope. Heuro are in very early stages but Evolyn might be further on.
  • Better Transport can help by doing research, by providing briefings of the type they’ve used before for the Expanding Railways campaign.
  • Stratford International Station has potential. The DfT would like Better Transport to do some exploratory work, as it is largely unused. The French authorities have set it up for border checking purposes so it’s ready to go. We can make the case for new entrants to use Stratford so they never need to compete for space at St Pancras. This might be a way to get Ashford and Ebbsfleet reopened.

Michael believes that competition works for passengers on the railways. Open Access has been shown to help shift passengers from air to rail.

“We need to talk about Euro Trains, not Eurostar.”

Michael Solomon Williams

Better Transport’s offer to us

  • They can conduct research and lobbying. A business funding partner would be helpful;
  • APPG: All Party Parliamentary Group engagement. Better Transport have experience of setting these up and Michael is not aware that one already exists for international rail.
  • Chairing round-table events, involving rail minsters. Better Transport meet frequently with transport ministers and their special advisers, likewise the shadow team. They meet twice weekly with Stephen Morgan, the shadow rail minister.
  • They are developing an international rail programme looking at passengers and freight including the Stratford element, and would like to incorporate Ashford and Ebbsfleet into that.
  • Better Transport have good links with the media, and tend to get listened to.