DfT urged to speed up rail reform after draft bill


The rail industry has welcomed the Government’s draft Rail Reform Bill but warned that it is ‘no substitute for legislation’, while campaigners have urged ministers to move forward with changes that do not need legislation.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the draft bill 'sets in motion the plan to deliver a bold vision', consisting of ‘punctual and reliable services, simpler tickets and a modern and innovative railway that meets the needs of passengers and freight users’.

Manchester Piccadilly station

The draft bill would see the creation of Great British Railways (GBR), which will bring together responsibility for rail infrastructure and services, with the aim of providing clearer lines of accountability and building a more modern and financially secure sector and a more adaptable and efficient network.

GBR would be the franchising authority, contracting with the private sector to deliver passenger services, and will also be tasked with driving forward the UK’s rail freight sector.

The DfT said the reforms will encourage private sector open-access operators, where they add value for passengers through more direct links and more options.

The bill applies mainly to Great Britain, with Scottish and Welsh ministers continuing to exercise existing devolved responsibilities, but with an option to delegate contracting authority to GBR to enable the integration of track and train across Great Britain if they wished to pursue it.

The draft bill will now undergo pre-legislative scrutiny to provide parliamentarians and industry experts the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the legislation.

Transport secretary Mark Harper said: ‘This draft bill demonstrates our commitment to reforming the railways – working with industry, we will move towards a more modern and financially secure rail network that delivers for passengers for the next 200 years, too.’

Andy Bagnall, chief executive of Rail Partners, which represents train operating companies said: ‘While not a substitute for legislation, the draft bill kicks off an important process to identify areas of consensus and disagreement between the political parties ahead of a general election.

‘In the meantime we must get on and deliver for customers, so non-legislative measures that support the freight growth target and improve the customer experience, such as more pay as you go, are very welcome.’

Silviya Barrett from Campaign for Better Transport said: ‘We welcome the publication of this draft bill, which is a much-needed step towards long-awaited rail reform, now we need to see it move swiftly through to the next stage.

‘In the meantime, we urge the Government to move forward with changes that do not require legislation, including meaningful reforms to ticketing that deliver actual benefits and better value for passengers.’

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