Shake-up unveiled

Rail network back under unified state body

Glasgow station and ScotRail

Timetabling will be part of GBR’s responsibilities (pic: Terry Murden)

Britain’s rail network is to be brought back under a unified structure, bringing responsibility for track and stations under one body to simplify the system and rebuild confidence.

Great British Railways will replace Network Rail in a move designed to end the conflict between train and track operations by bringing management of both under one body.

It will oversee ticketing, timetables and network planning and will use a modified version of the famous British Rail double-arrow logo.

The Department for Transport says the new system should look more like Transport for London, with multiple operators under one brand.

It will include more pay-as-you-go, contactless and digital ticketing on smartphones.

The iconic logo will retained, though modified

However, the change does not signal a return to nationalisation. The trains will continue to be run by private companies under new ‘Passenger Service Contracts’ that will replace the franchise system. They will pay a management fee, but will be able to focus more on performance.

The changes will take place in 2023 and, like Network Rail, Great British Railways will manage the rail infrastructure in Scotland.

The move comes two months after the Scottish Government stated its intention to place Scotland’s train services under state control.

Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps: overseeing changes

Dutch state transport firm Abellio will stop running the ScotRail franchise at the end of March next year.

After this an “arms-length” Scottish government company will take over the running of services.

Abellio has been running the franchise since 2015 but had its contract ended early amid criticism over cancellations and performance levels.

There remains questions over how Transport secretary Michael Matheson will deliver his plan without full devolution of rail powers to Scotland, but he has been engaged in the review and is said to be supportive of the plan.

In Scotland, ScotRail and Network Rail have worked together as the ScotRail Alliance which helped inform the review.

The switch to Great British Railways was unveiled by UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps based on the recommendations of a review carried out by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams.

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