1976-2016: 40 years of the High Speed Train (HST)
Image Source: Jeremy Segrott
The new Great British Railways body will take control of fares and timetables across the country.
Chloe Shakesby

Government promises "substantial role" for private sector as national railway reform unveiled

The government has today unveiled a new plan for rail across the country that will see a state-owned body set prices and timetables.

Great British Railways (GBR), a new public body created to reform rail services, will integrate railways, collect fare revenues and own infrastructure, as well as running and planning the network.

It said that the new system, under the Williams-Shapps Plan For Rail, will simplify the “mass of confusing tickets” with a new site to make the process more simple.

However, the government has said that the private sector will still have a “substantial” role to play, with GBR offering private partners Passenger Service Contracts to operate most of the trains in its network.

Boris Johnson, prime minister, commented: “I am a great believer in rail, but for too long passengers have not had the level of service they deserve.

“By creating Great British Railways and investing in the future of the network, this government will deliver a rail system the country can be proud of.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “Our railways were born and built to serve this country, to forge stronger connections between our communities and provide people with an affordable, reliable and rapid service.

“Years of fragmentation, confusion and over-complication have seen that vision fade and passengers failed. That complicated and broken system ends today.

“The pandemic has seen the government take unprecedented steps to protect services and jobs.

“It’s now time to kickstart reforms that give the railways solid and stable foundations for the future, unleashing the competitive, innovative and expert abilities of the private sector, and ensuring passengers come first.

“Great British Railways marks a new era in the history of our railways. It will become a single familiar brand with a bold new vision for passengers – of punctual services, simpler tickets and a modern and green railway that meets the needs of the nation.”

Keith Williams, chair of the Williams Review, said: “Our plan is built around the passenger, with new contracts which prioritise excellent performance and better services, better value fares and creating clear leadership and real accountability when things go wrong.

“Our railway history – rich with Victorian pioneers and engineers, steam and coal, industry and ingenuity – demands a bright future. This plan is the path forward, reforming our railways to ensure they work for everyone in this country.”

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