British Rail is recentralising

British Rail is recentralising. The UK government has published a bill to reform Britain’s railways by creating a new public sector body, called Great British Railways (GBR), to be responsible for rail infrastructure and the award of contracts to operate passenger trains.

Attempts to improve punctuality and simplify ticketing are among other measures outlined by ministers in a recent rail reform bill. The proposed legislation is unlikely to become law before the next general election. Senior political figures and industry experts have criticised the time taken to create the GBR.

Former Conservative transport minister Patrick McLoughlin told an event organised by trade body the Railway Industry Association the other day that it was “incredibly disappointing” that the bill would be in draft form.

British Rail is recentralising

The formation of the GBR was announced by the then transport secretary, Grant Shapps, in a White Paper called the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail in May 2021. It was based on the recommendations of a review by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams, which was set up in September 2018. Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, said, “It’s almost 200 years since British Rail was founded and, as travel patterns have changed significantly in recent years, it’s now more important than ever that it keeps pace with changing times. This Bill demonstrates our commitment to rail reform. By working with the industry, we will move towards a more modern and financially secure rail network that will provide passengers with the right service for the next 200 years.”

The DfT said that “many tangible reforms and improvements for passengers are already underway”, such as the introduction of ticket payment at several stations in the South East and the testing of this technology in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines, who leads British Rail’s transition team, said, “Passengers, freight customers and communities are crying out for a simpler and better railway and the publication of the Bill is an important step in that direction.”

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