Conservatives would use GBR to increase private sector role

The Conservative Party has confirmed in its manifesto that, if elected, it would create Great British Railways, which was envisaged in the 2021 Rail Review and described then as the industry’s ‘guiding mind’.

GBR would be responsible for increasing the part played by the private sector in the rail industry, including the expansion of open access passenger services ‘to bring greater choice’.

The Conservative manifesto says: ‘GBR will usher in a revitalised private-public partnership, delivering a modern and innovative railway with reliable services, and simpler tickets.’

It also says that that ‘outdated working practices’ will be addressed in its forthcoming Rail Reform Bill, a proposed law which would be included in the King’s Speech at the opening of the next Parliament.

Other Conservative railway plans include national mobile pay-as-you-go contactless tickets, an evaluation of proposals to continue the Borders Railway from Tweedbank to Hawick and Carlisle, an updated East Coast Main Line timetable, electrification of the North Wales main line, improvements on the South Wales main line, more reopenings and investment in the line through Dawlish, the Energy Coast [Cumbrian Coast] line and the Ely Junction scheme in East Anglia, and improved accessibility at 100 stations, including the 50 announced in May.

The Northern Powerhouse Rail project would continue, including electrification to Hull and a new station for central Bradford. The Midlands Rail Hub would also be funded with £1.75 billion.

In addition, the manifesto says ‘We are committed to all the schemes set out in the Network North Command Paper,’ and that the Conservatives will ‘support the growth of the rail freight sector’. although no further details are given.

Nothing is said about how National Rail Contracts could change or be re-awarded in future, nor if the four nationalised English train operators would be returned to the private sector.

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