Prime Minister urged to create Great British Railways soon

The Prime Minister is being urged by supply chain companies to move ahead with rail reforms by promoting a bill to create the industry’s new ‘guiding mind’ Great British Railways.

GBR was proposed in the Williams-Shapps Rail Review, the result of several years of research by Royal Mail and Halfords chairman Keith Williams.

When the Review was published in in May 2021, the government had said: ‘By replacing franchising, accelerating innovation and integrating the railways, we will deliver an efficient, financially sustainable railway that meets the needs of passengers and those who rely on rail on a daily basis.’

But an Act of Parliament will be needed to transfer many of the Department for Transport’s responsibilities to GBR, and also to allow GBR to take over Network Rail, and so far the government has pleaded lack of Parliamentary time.

In a letter signed by more than 60 business leaders in the rail supply chain and Railway Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan, Rishi Sunak is urged to ‘place rail reform front and centre of your programme. Legislation is needed as soon as possible to bring costs and revenues together in one place, something which is essential to the success of any organisation.’

It continues: ‘As private sector businesses we need certainty on industry structure and responsibilities – this is essential to our collective ability to invest in R&D, innovation, skills, and to recruit the next generation of apprentices and graduates. The GBR legislation will enable us to deliver this, but for this key piece of legislation to be enacted before the next General Election it needs to be tabled soon.’

Darren Caplan said: ‘The Railway Industry Association and its rail supply members are simply asking Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ensure the Government gets on with the process of expediting its own legislation.

‘Getting on with rail reform will help provide the certainty rail businesses need to invest, take on staff and develop their business plans, ultimately benefiting passenger and freight customers, and resulting in better value-for-money for taxpayers.

‘However, failure to enact the GBR legislation means a delay to reform of at least 18 months, and possibly longer as we await the next General Election and then fresh Bills come forward in its aftermath. There would be a heightened risk of hiatus in rail investment if decisions get delayed as rail reform stalls.

‘Some of the biggest names in the rail supply sector have signed this letter to the Prime Minister, to urge him to ensure the required legislation is passed. We ask Rishi Sunak to take note of the letter, if he wants to have a world-class rail system which connects the country and delivers on his own agendas to level-up, decarbonise, and encourage industries which can give a major boost to economic growth.’

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