Great British Railways plan to oversee rail network delayed


A plan to create a public sector body to oversee Britain’s ailing rail network has been delayed.

Great British Railways (GBR), which would take over from the infrastructure management company Network Rail and be responsible for handing out rail contracts, will not go ahead in 2024 owing to the scrapping of the transport bill.

The transport secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, told the Commons that the bill was being abolished because of the need to prioritise legislation to deal with the energy crisis.

She said a lighter version of the bill could be put forward looking at legislation around transport technologies such as e-scooters.

Asked about the transport bill by the transport select committee, Trevelyan said: “The challenges of things like the energy legislation we’ve got to bring in and various others has meant that we have lost the opportunity to have that in this third session. What we are continuing to pitch for will be what I would call a narrow bill around the future of transport technologies, the legislation around things like e-scooters.”

She added: “That bigger piece around rail transformation in particular, we will need to look at in the fourth session.”

The Department for Transport permanent secretary, Dame Bernadette Kelly, told the committee: “There are key elements of structural change and the establishment of GBR which require legislation including, for example, I think the formal transfer of franchising powers from the government – from the DfT – to another entity.

“So there clearly are some things that we can’t fully do structurally without legislation and without those powers.”

Trevelyan said: “What we’re looking at, at the moment, is whether actually, across that whole piece, there are a number of parts that don’t actually require primary legislation, so how can we intelligently use the time we’ve got until we get into the second half of next year to actually start to implement those areas of transformation that we can.”

The DfT announced in July that Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle and York had been shortlisted to host the headquarters of GBR.

Andy Bagnall, the chief executive of the industry body Rail Partners, said: “It is disappointing the legislation to create GBR will be delayed, but we look forward to working with the secretary of state, rail minister and Great British Railways transition team’s leadership to progress reform in its absence.

“It is critical there is not a long hiatus and there are immediate steps that can be taken now, such as switching on revenue incentives in national rail contracts and feeding back to the market on passenger service contract development, which can accelerate growth and underpin a reinvigorated public-private partnership.”

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