UK government vows to ‘modernise’ rail network

The UK government has promised to introduce new legislation to “modernise” the country’s rail network and “improve reliability” for passengers.

A transport bill was one of nearly 40 pieces of legislation to be announced during the Queen’s Speech in Westminster on Tuesday (10 May) as the UK parliament opened for a new session.

The bill will also see the establishment of the state-run Great British Railways agency which will regulate train services across the country following the government’s decision to end the long-running franchise system in 2020.

Andy Bagnall, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: “This is an important milestone towards delivering a better railway for customers and the nation as a whole, with Great British Railways having the potential to join up the railway.

“To make these reforms a success, this needs to be balanced with giving private operators the contractual freedom to focus relentlessly on customers, and boldly innovate to meet their needs.”

Bagnall added that private train operators would continue to work with government and the Great British Railways’ transition team to “ensure these reforms meet the ambition and potential of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail”.

Norman Baker, from Campaign for Better Transport, also welcomed the planned bill to improve the UK’s rail network but criticised the lack of any proposed new law to improve the ticketing system.

“We are disappointed there is no mention of legislation to address the failing ticketing system,” added Baker. “Without wholesale reform of the entire ticketing system we cannot hope to have the better and more reliable service passengers have been promised.”

Meanwhile, Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, called for the government to deal with the country’s transport infrastructure “as a whole”.

“Whilst the BTA welcomes the government’s commitment to the rail industry and levelling-up, this needs to be dealt with as a whole,” he urged.

“Airports need better connectivity – global Britain must be part of domestic levelling-up. Our current infrastructure does not deliver on our post-Brexit place in the world.”

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