This morning in the House of Commons, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps outlined the biggest reforms to Britain’s railways in almost 30 years.
Railways are, of course, a sore subject here in Buckinghamshire. We are suffering at the hands of the construction of HS2, a railway that is unwanted, not needed, a colossal waste of money and so horribly destructive to our environment. A point, in his question after the statement Greg made very clearly.
There is a lot in todays announcement to be welcomed though.
The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail White Paper sets out how the government will ensure the interests of rail passengers are always put first, with ten key outcomes – including high-quality consistent services, simpler ways of paying for travel and straightforward compensation, and cleaner greener railways as we drive towards net zero.
The key points are:
- Creating Great British Railways, a single familiar brand that will deliver better services for passengers. To bring about change on the scale needed, the government will create a new public body – Great British Railways – who will integrate the railways, own the infrastructure, collect fare revenue, run and plan the network, and set most fares and timetables. A new GBR website will sell tickets, and a single compensation system for operators in England will provide a simple system for passengers to access information and apply for refunds.
- Introducing new Passenger Service Contracts, ensuring train operators deliver the high-quality services that passengers want. The new Passenger Service Contracts replace franchising, and will include strong incentives for operators to run high-quality services and increase passenger numbers. They will not be one-size-fits-all: as demand recovers, operators on some routes, particularly long-distance, will have more commercial freedom.
- Retaining a substantial role for the private sector in our railways, ensuring they remain competitive and innovative. There will remain a substantial, and often greater role, for the private sector. While Great British Railways will coordinate the whole network, – private companies will still be contracted to run the trains, with stronger competition to run services. The reforms will also unleash huge new opportunities for the private sector to innovate in areas such as ticket retailing and data that can be used by passengers to better plan their journeys.
The thrust of Greg's question after the statement, which you can watch in this video, is to once more challenge the government to commit to the Aylesbury Spur of East West Rail.
Greg said: "If the government want the railways to be passenger focused and about increased connectivity that people actually want, surely the Aylesbury Spur must feature as part of East West Rail, enabling the ability to intersect with the Chiltern Line in Aylesbury once East West Rail is operational."