Posted 13th October 2022 | 3 Comments

Great British Railways set to be delayed

The creation of the new ‘guiding mind’ Great British Railways and the passing of an Act of Parliament is likely to be delayed until the spring, according to reports, as government and Parliament remain tangled in wider political and economic problems.

Official sources have declined to give any firm update, and the new rail minister Kevin Foster was reluctant to commit himself when he was a guest at the Rail Forum annual conference in Derby on Tuesday, saying only: ‘There's a new government. We'll take stock, particularly around the legislative agenda. I think we see in the not-too-distant future myself and the secretary of state will perhaps set out a little bit more detail on where we see the vision.

‘But also we're now starting to see what's going to be the type of demand, particularly on the passenger side.’

He added that some lines have recovered well from the slump in usage caused by the Covid lockdowns, but others are ‘much, much lower than that’.

He concluded: ‘It does need to inform some of our thinking about the future.’

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport has been making progress in reshaping the former franchising system, awarding new National Rail Contracts to a number of operators over the past year. These contracts, which involve much less commercial risk for operators but also much less choice about how they run their businesses, are part of the proposed model for Great British Railways.

Other operators are still continuing to function under directly-awarded contracts which are the remains of the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements introduced in 2020.

One of these is Avanti West Coast, which has been given a six-month extension to its ERMA amid controversy over reductions to its services which were imposed almost two months ago, on the grounds that not enough staff were willing to work overtime or on rest days. Some of the trains withdrawn then have since been restored, and Avanti says more are set to return in December.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • david C Smith, Bletchley

    I'm happy with a guiding mind, that does not prevent people like Chris Green or Adrian Shooter from making contribution / innovations . I hope the guiding mind would not overpower other sources of ideas in a "top down " manner. Does the guiding mind have to be a single individual ?

    After 1945, the bulk of the whole transport system in GB, including BR was placed in the hands of the British Transport Commission. Most commentators agreed this was not a great success. Let's hope GBR is not a repeat !

  • david C Smith, Bletchley

    Dr Beeching was (in- ?) famous for closure of lines and services,but his basic position was to " concentrate on doing what the railway is best at, rather than try to be a general carrier ", which led to Sectorisation within BR.

    Quite apart from party politics, should we now be looking to allow our railway to develop in this direction, as a series of specialised operations rather than have a "guiding mind" applying centralised policy down through a pyramidal quasi military management ? Should such specialised operations be private or public sector , or a mix of both ?

    [Quite honestly, David, I have had more than enough of the 'fragmented railway' over the past 25 years. Bring on the guiding mind! What do other readers think?--Ed.]

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    Oh dear, continued policy drift. Perhaps if the Williams report hadn't been hijacked by the ego of the last departed Secretary of State for Transport the enabling legislation may have been further advanced. Now it looks like sharing the fate of all previous plans & gathering dust. Perhaps though it's principle legacy was recognising that the fragmented privatised model from the 1990's had run it's course & that substantial efficiency & cost savings could be made by recreation of a functional integrated railway.

    Now that the DfT ministerial team has been refreshed perhaps the most urgent priority is detoxifying the current industrial relations situation that the previous Secretary of State was only too keen to exploit. Having had passenger demand destroyed & finances wrecked by the pandemic a period of stability is warranted especially as the statistics for ridership do show a sustained recovery. However as the immediate economic prospects look decidedly rocky there's no guarantee that support will be forthcoming.