The Government has announced a new publicly owned body to manage the U.K’s railways – excluding Northern Ireland.
The move comes 28 years after the privatisation of British Rail by John Major’s government in 1993.
A statement from the Department for Transport announced that the new authority will
- “Integrate” national railways
- Own the infrastructure (such as stations, rails and bridges)
- Collect revenue from fares
- ‘Run and plan the network’
- Set “most fares and timetables”
Despite this substantial reclaim of state autonomy within the sector, private companies will retain influence.
They will negotiate contracts and “operate most trains to the timetables and fares it specifies”, incurring penalties if not.
This is similar to the existing system used by Transport of London.
A more centralised administrative system will include
- “Flexible season tickets” with shorter terms of 28 days
- “More convenient Pay As You Go, contactless and digital ticketing on smartphones”
- A new “GBR website will sell tickets”
- A “single compensation system for operators in England”
How many will actually utilise this system remains to be seen as effective services are already used by passengers via various independent mobile booking and tracking apps.
Private operators in the East Midlands currently include
- East Midlands Railways (Abellio)
Their parent companies will now likely seek contracts within the new national system.
Andy Bagnall, Director General of the Rail Delivery Group, local operator East Midlands Railway an associated member of which, has said that “Train companies have long called for many of the reforms in this white paper”.
Getting the detail right would ensure “improve[d] journeys,… independent oversight and clear accountability, and… a new set of fares which are simpler and more value for money”.
“Train operators”, he said, have “called for a guiding mind and Great British Railways will help to bring the whole industry together”.
“Crucially, it needs to allow operators to put their customers at the absolute forefront of decision making.”
“Flexible tickets for commuters and more pay-as-you-go are good news for passengers”, and “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”.
The Labour Party released a similar plan for “Britain-wide integration” in 2020.
It called for
- “One network, One timetable”
- “London style ticketing system across the nation, delivering contactless payments and… zonal rail, fares”
- ‘integration between train services and infrastructure management’
A crucial difference between the plans, however, is the role of private firms.
Labour’s plan would have given ‘Devolved Transport Authorities’ “powers to set up penalty-incentive contracts with the nationally- owned rail company”.
Today’s announcement sticks with private companies instead.
The Government claims that overall passengers will save money on national routes.
- Over £250 from Woking to London
- Over £200 from York to Leeds
- Over £60 from Southampton Central to Winchester
- Over £160 from Stafford to Birmingham
- Over £220 from Liverpool to Manchester
Whilst “Three day-a-week commuters could save:”
- Over £220 from St Albans City to London
- Over £120 from Bromsgrove to Birmingham
- Over £90 from Weston-Super-Mare to Bristol Temple Meads
- Over £330 from Chelmsford to Stratford