Business chiefs say rail reforms must make travel safer, cheaper and more reliable

Business body the East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) has spelled out what i wants to see from the Government’s planned reforms of railways across the country.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 11:08 am

This week, Transport Secretary Grant Schapps MP announced Government plans for sweeping reforms of the rail industry in this country.

Mr Schapps said a new public sector body, Great British Railways (GBR) would be created to oversee Britain’s railways and replace the current system, which he referred to as ‘too complicated’.

GBR will absorb Network Rail, owning and managing rail infrastructure, issuing contracts to private firms to run trains, setting most fares and timetables and selling tickets.

The new reforms will bring setting most fares and timetables and selling tickets under the control of one national public sector body. Photo: Jonny Walton

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the new system has been produced in a bid to end the ‘blame-game’ between train and track operations when disruption occurs.

However, while it is a public sector body, Mr Schapps stressed it was not a return to the old days of British Rail as private companies will still support in the day-to-day running of trains.

Responding to the Government’s proposals, Scott Knowles, East Midlands Chamber chief executive, said: “The success of Government’s plans will be judged by whether they make travel easier, cheaper and more reliable, which will be crucial in getting more people onto trains and more sustainable modes of public transport.

“We welcome the pledge to increase flexibility through a new approach to season tickets.

Scott Knowles, East Midlands Chamber chief executive. Photo: Mark Averill

“Working patterns were evolving beyond traditional hours before the pandemic but the desire for a more agile lifestyle has crystallised over the past 14 months.

“The future of work will likely be a hybrid between office and home for some sectors and our public transport system should reflect this.

"Hopefully, these changes will also incentivise people to return to our cities and towns as we emerge from lockdown restrictions.

“It’s important the move towards greater public ownership isn’t allowed to hinder innovation, which our region has been at the forefront of within the rail industry in particular, and it’s absolutely crucial that investment now follows to bring our ageing rail infrastructure into the 21st century.

“This encouraging start must translate into a longer-term concrete commitment to positive change for our railways that places the passenger at the heart of the system.”

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