A Great British Railway?
On 20 May 2021, the Government published the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. The major proposals for the future of the rail industry will see the creation of a single authority, Great British Railways, headed by professional railwaymen rather than civil servants at DfT to manage the running of the railways. Franchising will be abolished and replaced by Passenger Service Contracts. There is also a commitment to simplify the complex fares structure.
The plan contains 62 commitments, which are listed below. However, if you wish to read the full plan, then you can click on the button below.
Integrating the railways
- A new public body, Great British Railways, will run the network in the public interest.
- Great British Railways will be the single guiding mind and leader that the railways currently lack.
- Great British Railways will be given the means to think and plan for the longer term.
- There will be a national brand and identity to emphasise that the railways are one connected network.
- Great British Railways will be a new organisation, not just a larger version of Network Rail.
- Great British Railways will be given a binding mandate to have as its primary focus serving the interests of passengers, freight customers and taxpayers and growing rail usage.
- Great British Railways will be mandated to increase efficiency and co-operation.
- The government will hold the railways’ leaders accountable for meeting the needs of the customers and communities the network serves.
- A 30-year strategy will provide clear, long term plans for transforming the railways to strengthen collaboration, unlock efficiencies and incentivise innovation.
- Great British Railways will be made up of powerful regional divisions, with budgets and delivery held at the local level, not just nationally.
- In England, new partnerships with Great British Railways' regional divisions will give towns, cities and regions greater control over local ticketing, services and stations.
- Devolved railways will be strengthened, with closer collaboration with Great British Railways improving services, consistency and co-ordination across the country.
- Community rail partnerships will be empowered to strengthen rail’s social and economic impact.
- Station management will be integrated within Great British Railways to improve accountability for long-term investment in stations.
- Opportunities to better unlock housing, local economic growth and social value will be explored.
- Transport Focus will be reformed to become a passenger champion, advising the Secretary of State on passenger priorities.
- Performance and efficiency will be independently scrutinised by the statutory regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.
- Current safety and security rules will remain in place across the rail network. A consultation will be undertaken to ensure safety roles, rules and standards are appropriate for the future.
- Cross-sector organisations will be consolidated and integrated to enable the railways to operate more effectively and efficiently.
- Track access will be overhauled to make the best use of the rail network in the overall public interest.
- Franchising will be replaced by new Passenger Service Contracts.
- Passenger Service Contracts will focus operators on meeting passengers’ priorities and will incentivise them to grow rail usage.
- Each Passenger Service Contract will be designed to support the needs of passengers and the whole network, as part of an integrated system.
- Passenger Service Contracts will be different across the network and will not take a one-size-fits-all approach, including on contract length.
- Operators will have greater commercial freedom on some parts of the network, with revenue sharing arrangements where appropriate. New open access services will also be explored where spare capacity exists.
- The geographic and financial size of Passenger Service Contracts will reflect local markets and needs.
- Competition for Passenger Service Contracts will be greater than for franchises and Great British Railways will aim to compete all contracts.
- If operators fail, the government will be ready to step in and take control where needed.
- The government will work with the sector and potential new market entrants to develop and implement these changes.
A new deal for passengers
- Easy, frictionless payment options for every journey will be introduced across the network.
- Pay As You Go journeys will be expanded outside London to make millions more trips straightforward.
- Digital tickets will be introduced across the network.
- A new Great British Railways website and app will create a personalised travel experience.
- Customer service at stations will be modernised, with one-team working expanded across the network.
- Fares will be simplified.
- Affordable fares and season ticket caps will continue to be protected.
- Off-peak services will be protected.
- New flexible season tickets will be introduced to reflect changing working patterns.
- Journeys across rail, bus, tram and bike will become seamless in the future.
- Getting to the station on a bike and taking it on a train will be made easier.
- Trains will be made more pleasant to travel on and easier to work aboard.
- Compensation will be simpler and easier to claim, with a consistent, modern process right across the network.
- Passengers will receive clear, consistent information before, during and after their journeys. Their experiences will be monitored more effectively.
- The first robust national accessibility strategy and long-term investment programme will improve inclusion and access for all.
Unleashing the private sector’s potential
- The economic and environmental benefits of rail freight will be supported by a new, customer-focused approach, modern track access rights and new safeguards.
- Operators will take a lead role in improving services and performance by innovating with private partners, including train-leasing companies.
- Modern contracts will be introduced to increase competition, reduce costs and help to attract private investment for new technologies.
- Partnerships with other key infrastructure providers, such as broadband innovators, will help to boost the country's drive towards a revolution in connectivity.
- New, locally-led innovation schemes will unlock smarter working and support growth.
- Local engagement will better support small-and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups.
- Contestability across operations will be increased, but sub-contracting will need to deliver real value for money.
Accelerating innovation and modernisation
- Electrification of the network will be expanded, and alternative technologies such as hydrogen and battery power will help to achieve zero emissions from trains and reduce air pollution.
- The contribution of the railways to the nation’s green recovery will be strengthened, including through a comprehensive environment plan by 2022 that will establish rail as the backbone of a cleaner future transport system.
- Energy efficiency, renewable power production, tree-planting and other green initiatives across the rail estate will be accelerated.
- Long-term investment in climate resilience will be prioritised, supported by smarter forecasting, planning and technology.
- An ‘open by default’ approach to data sharing will better inform journeys, improve transparency and unlock new technology.
- Research, development and innovation funding will be simplified to make it more outcome focused and to improve collaboration.
- SPEED will accelerate the delivery of improvements, making more efficient results the new normal.
Empowering rail’s people
- A new joined-up, cross-sector training and skills offer will support people at every career stage to develop skills and bring in experience from outside the rail sector.
- A sector-wide workforce plan will be developed to assist employers and build system-wide resilience.
- Diversity across the sector will be improved through the inclusion of stretching measures in contracts to actively promote and increase recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.
- Comprehensive data on productivity and pay will be collected and published by ORR, which will report on the data and compare it with that of other sectors and labour markets.