The Government is moving forward with its Great British Railways (GBR) plans - a new 'accountable public body responsible for running Britain’s railways' - by setting up a transition team and launching a competition to find its headquarters.
GBR was commissioned in May 2021 following the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, a review tasked with reforming Britain’s railways in the wake of timetable debacles and franchise failures.
The aim is for GBR to absorb and replace Network Rail, the current track operator, in 2023. The Government has described the new system as more like Transport for London's, with GRB setting timetables and prices, sell tickets in England and manage rail infrastructure.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has now announced the creation of the GBR transition team under the leadership of Andrew Haines, who will continue to work as CEO of Network Rail.
The team will be responsible for driving forward reforms and setting up GBR with an initial focus on revenue recovery efforts post-pandemic including establishing 'a strategic freight unit' to boost the sector.
Mr Shapps said the core goals that will define GBR, include:
- changing the culture of the railways not simply creating a bigger version of Network Rail
- thinking like our customers, both passengers and freight, and putting them first
- growing the network and getting more people travelling
- making the railways easier to use
- simplifying the sector to do things quicker, driving down costs and being more accountable
- having a can-do, not a can’t do culture
- harnessing the best of the private sector
- playing a critical role in the national shift to net zero
In a statement, the Department for Transport said the Government would also soon launch a competition by welcoming expressions of interest to house the national headquarters of GBR, with a commitment that they will be based outside of London.
'The competition will recognise towns and cities with a rich railway history that are strongly linked to the network ensuring the first headquarters will take pride of place at the heart of a new era for Britain’s railways,' DfT said.
Network Rail has a £120m headquarters called the The Quadrant:MK in Milton Keynes, which only opened in 2012 and can house more than 3000 people.