Great British Railways: Government sets out new rail vision

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Network Rail is being replaced by a new public body called Great British Railways which will oversee the entire railway network according to a government white paper.

The body will also do away with Railway Franchises in favour of a new contracts system to give the government greater control over train operating companies in an effort to boost efficiency.

Under the new system train operators, many of which are owned by state-owned foreign companies, will be paid by Great British Railways to operate services with a number of incentive schemes available to boost passenger numbers and reward reliability.

Announcing the body, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP said he wanted Great British Railways to become a trusted national brand that everyone will know and come to love.

The move has been welcomed by passenger groups, especially the introduction of new flexible season tickets but unions, most of whom want to return to a nationalised railway, have said the moves don’t go far enough.

Andrea Rossi, Chief Executive of one of the UK’s biggest rail operators, DB Cargo UK responded saying: “We welcome the direction that today’s White Paper provides and will continue to work with Government and other key industry stakeholders to realise the true potential of rail freight here in the UK.

“For too long the points have been unfairly set in favour of passenger train operators and on first reading, today’s proposals appear to provide an opportunity to level the playing field and really maximise the environmental and economic benefits rail freight can deliver.

“Our industry has played a pivotal role during the recent pandemic and ensured the seamless movement of goods to and from Europe during the difficult Brexit transition period but we have so much more to give in terms of helping the Government to grow the economy and deliver on its net zero emissions targets.

“We will work hard to ensure that our compelling case for the further growth of rail freight continues to be heard.”