Rail at night, via Istock

Delays for Great British Rail's delivery

New Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, appearing at the Commons Transport Select Committee on Wednesday morning, has announced that the planned transport bill that would legislate the establishment of Great British Railways (GBR) will not go ahead in this parliamentary session.

The state-owned body, conceived by Ms Trevelyan’s predecessor Grant Shapps and announced in May 2021, would represent a major modal shift within the British rail sector as it would take control of the contracting of passenger services and become responsible for the management of infrastructure through the absorption of Network Rail.

The body was originally scheduled to begin operations in 2024, but that timetable has now been scrapped with uncertainty over its future. It is currently not clear to how this will affect the GBR national headquarters location, which is still to be determined.

Speaking at the Transport Select Committee, Anne-Marie Trevelyan stated:

“The challenges of things like the energy legislation we’ve got to bring in and various others has meant that we have lost the opportunity to have that in this third session.

“What we are continuing to pitch for will be what I would call a narrow Bill around the future of transport technologies, the legislation around things like e-scooters.

“That bigger piece around rail transformation in particular, we will need to look at in the fourth session.”

Bernadette Kelly, the top civil servant at the Department for Transport, also told the Committee:

"I think in the absence of legislation to the timetable that we have been planning, then it is very difficult for us to implement all of the changes necessary which require legislation to establish GBR."

Stemming from issues highlighted through the Covid-19 pandemic, the current Government is seeking to transition the sector away from the franchising model, having the Department for Transport (DfT) decide the specifications for operations with the end goal being to hand responsibility from the DfT to GBR when the body is fully established.

The implementation of GBR is integral to the Government’s vision for transformation of the British rail sector, so it is unlikely that this public body will not be delivered in some form, however this delay creates further uncertainty where clarity is needed.

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