Shapps hails private sector role in rail's new future


The body that represents the rail industry supply chain has called on the Government to ensure that the transition to its new model for the industry does not result in a hiatus in current projects and decisions on future ones.

In a statement to Parliament as his department published a consultation on the legislation needed to set up Great British Railways, transport secretary Grant Shapps said that although many of the commitments set out in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail do not require legislation, primary legislation is required to deliver key elements of structural reform.

Mr Shapps told MPs: ‘Great British Railways is key to delivering a customer-focused railway. The plans outlined in this consultation will deliver a rail system that is the backbone of a cleaner, greener public transport system, offering passengers and freight customers a better deal and greater value for money for taxpayers.

‘The private sector has played an integral role in improving our railways over the past 25 years – these plans are designed to take the best of the private sector and fuse it with a single guiding mind that can drive benefits and efficiencies across the system as a whole.’

Mr Shapps said the consultation is focused across three key areas:

  • the establishment of Great British Railways, including its proposed functions and duties and how ministers propose to legislate and work with stakeholders to enable Great British Railways to become the single guiding mind for the railways
  • how to ensure clear accountabilities in the rail sector through a new governance framework, including the regulator’s role in providing independent scrutiny and challenge
  • reform of wider industry structures and processes to deliver transformation of the railways and a new industry culture, including a new Passenger Champion role for Transport Focus and proposals for open data sharing.

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, described the move as a welcome step forward in the journey to establish Great British Railways.

He said: ‘Thousands of rail businesses play a vital role in the construction and operation of the UK’s railways, and so it is good to see the Government recognise the need to harness the ‘best of the private sector.

'We also support the proposal for the licence from Government to require GBR to encourage private sector involvement and take account of the benefits of rail investment for the economy and the supply chain.'

He added: ‘Whilst this process takes place, it is vital that the Government avoids a hiatus in current work and decision-making on rail projects, and gets on with delivering these reforms to provide businesses with as much certainty as possible

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