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Future of rail set out in reform bill

The government has set out its plans for the future of the nation’s railways with the publication of the draft Rail Reform Bill.

According to the Department for Transport, the bill will establish how the government’s ‘bold’ vision will be delivered for rail customers, whilst supporting the delivery of the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto commitments of reforming the rail system to be simpler and more effective. This reform will aim to see services made more punctual and reliable, with simpler ticketing and a more modern and innovative rail system that caters for both passengers and freight.

The creation of Great British Railways (GBR) will be part of the new draft bill, enabling rail infrastructure and services to be brought together to ensure that accountability is clearer, while also helping to make the entire sector more modern and financially secure. Through the industry expertise of GBR, passengers and freight will benefit from a holistic approach to drive efficiency.

Once it is up and running, GBR will also become the new franchising authority for the industry, as it works alongside the private sector to maximise opportunities for investment, innovation, and opportunity within rail, as well as delivering passenger services.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper commented on the new bill, saying:

“It’s been nearly 200 years since the birth of the British railways and with travel patterns having significantly changed over the last few years, it is now more important than ever that they keep up with the changing times.

“This draft bill demonstrates our commitment to reforming the railways – working with industry, we will move towards a more modern and financially secure rail network that delivers for passengers for the next 200 years too.”

Overall, there are five main aims of the reform bill, as the government outline that it will focus on:

  • More accountability
  • Better service
  • Smarter growth of the sector
  • Greater efficiency
  • Improve focus on customers
Rail Reform Bill quote

In response to the publication of the draft bill, Rail Partners released a statement from Chief Executive Andy Bagnall saying:

“The publication of the draft bill is a useful step forward, which clearly recognises that train companies add significant value to passengers and freight customers, alongside a guiding mind.

“Rail reform doesn’t have to be a binary choice between a monopoly railway in public hands and franchising. We must embrace the ‘best of both worlds,’ focusing the system outwards on customers by empowering operators to meet their needs, by also creating a single accountably body so the public knows who is in charge.

“While not a substitute for legislation, the draft bill kicks off an important process to identify areas of consensus and disagreement between the political parties ahead of a general election. In the meantime, we must get on and deliver for customers, so non-legislative measures that support the freight growth target and improve the customer experience, such as more pay-as-you-go, are very welcome.”

Shadow Transport Minister Louise Haigh also responded to the publication of the reform bill, commenting that “it is fitting that the Conservatives’ flagship rail reform plan has arrived so late, it has no prospect of ever becoming law.”

Haigh continued “Years after they promised change, they’ve finally admitted they can’t and won’t fix our broken railways.”


Image credit: iStock


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