The Queens speech to be delivered today, will outline the establishment of Great British Railways (GBR). This will act as the new state holding company for the UK’s rail infrastructure. The plans for the bill being introduced will be delivered by Prince Charles, due to the Queens health preventing her from delivering a speech in person for the first time since 1963.
Around 20 pieces of legislation are expected to be addressed, with a handful having strong implications for the future of the rail sector. One proposed bill will likely give powers to the GBR, allowing it to take over the management of passenger service contracts from the Department of Transport, accompanied by transferring the railway’s infrastructure from Network Rail to the new body.
The new plans will effectively act as a partial renationalisation of the rail industry, which has been a hot topic in recent weeks, especially in Northern England with the likes of the Mayor for Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham championing the nationalisation of rail after his successful takeover of Manchester busses.
While the GBR will be taking over from Network Rail and will be responsible for investing in the system and setting out future plans, this will act as only a partial nationalisation. The trains themselves will still need to be leased from other rolling stock companies, with train operations to be contracted out to private firms. These plans represent the potential of needed change and innovation within the industry, looking to amalgamate two ideologies for the growth of the sector.
The Government have also lodged a carry-over motion for certain legislation which have not completed their passage through parliament in the previous session. One notable bill for the rail industry comes in the form of the High-Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill. This piece of legislation would see parliament give ministers the powers needed to construct and operate a rail line of the HS2 between Crewe and Manchester.
It is claimed by the government that the implementation of the new rail line will see major boosts to the interconnectivity of the northern cities, outlining how the Bill would improve service reliability and deliver shorter journey times for passengers. The new line is estimated to cut travel from London to Manchester by about 55 minutes and Birmingham to Manchester by up to 45 minutes.
According to ministers, the extension would double the rail capacity between Manchester and London with new high-speed stations and junctions at Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport.
The speech today could see major news, set to shake up the rail industry, potentially for the better. Northern interconnectivity could be majorly improved through the continued implementation of HS2 and we could see the reining in of an entirely privatised industry since John Major’s government of 1992.