Rail shake-up designed to get services back on track
- Credit: GTR
The UK's railway services are set for a big shake-up - which will see a new state-owned company take control of timetables, ticket prices and infrastructure.
This follows a review by Welwyn Hatfield MP and transport secretary, Grant Shapps and former British Airways boss Keith Williams - who led the independent review.
Mr Williams identified serious issues facing the railways - some of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic - including fragmentation, meaning no single body is accountable for integration, planning and leadership across infrastructure, passenger services and freight operations.
The new governing body, Great British Railways, will absorb current infrastructure owner Network Rail to bring about single leadership for the national network.
There are also plans to "make the railways easier to use" by simplifying fares and ticketing, and providing more convenient ways to pay with contactless and online
GBR will contract private partners to operate the trains to the timetable it sets.
The Rail Delivery Group - which brings together the various companies delivering train services across the UK - has issued a statement on behalf of train operators.
Andy Bagnall, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Train companies have long called for many of the reforms in this white paper and these proposals can deliver the biggest changes in a generation.
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“Getting the detail right will be crucial to ensuring that the white paper fulfils its potential to improve journeys, offer independent oversight and clear accountability, and create a new set of fares which are simpler and more value for money.
“For our passengers, we are ambitious to move quickly and work with government so that we can attract people back onto trains with better services and maximise the railway’s contribution to the recovery.
“We welcome the commitment that new passenger service contracts will allow room for local train companies to use private sector expertise to respond to what their customers want on the ground and attract more passengers, boosting Britain’s economy.”
“Flexible tickets for commuters and more pay-as-you-go are good news for passengers. To really maximise the benefits and make it easier for people to get good value fares requires government to go further and get under the bonnet to fix the engine of the fares system.”
Commuters across the country were met with months of problems with rail services when a new timetable was adopted in May 2018 - including in many in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire towns and villages.
The operator who implemented the timetable changes,Govia Thameslink - which runs our services - was fined £5 million in March 2019, following the long-winded chaos caused.
Following today's news, Patrick Verwer - the chief executive officer for Govia Thameslink Railway - said: “We will continue to work in collaboration with the Department for Transport, Network Rail and industry partners to deliver a better customer proposition, as laid out in the Williams-Shapps review, and to support the government’s recovery agenda.
“Over the past year, we have played a critical role in supporting key workers with their journeys, and we continue to focus on keeping our passengers and colleagues safe.
"Customers tell us that better access to real-time information, more flexible and smarter payment options, and simpler fares are at the top of their rail travel priorities.
"During this time, we have already been working hard to provide new solutions including more intuitive travel information, introducing e-ticket readers at stations and creating new tools to help passengers choose the quietest times to travel.
“Our current focus remains on working in partnership with the DfT to deliver the requirements of our ERMA contract and encouraging people back to their local train services.
"This recovery will help by protecting the environment, boosting economic recovery and supporting the prosperity of our regions.”