THE HEAD of the organisation that runs the UK’s rail infrastructure has welcomed the government’s plans to create a new state-owned organisation to run the network.
Great British Railways, announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday (Thursday), will integrate the railways, own the infrastructure and collect fare revenue. It will also run and plan the network and set most fares and timetables.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines described the announcement as “the start of an exciting new chapter for our railway, a chapter that puts the passenger first.”
The reforms follow the chaotic introduction of new timetables in 2018 and dissatisfaction with the franchising system of train services, which has now been ended.
Great British Railways also has the backing of the two MPs for Milton Keynes. They have particularly welcomed the planned introduction of flexible season tickets.
However, the government intends that GBR will replace Network Rail, headquartered next to Milton Keynes Central station and which currently operates the UK rail infrastructure, by 2023.
GBR will introduce new flexible season tickets and a significant roll-out of more convenient ‘Pay As You Go’, contactless and digital ticketing on smartphones.
Also, GBR will have a single compensation system for all operators, providing a simple system for passengers to access information and request refunds.
Mr Haines said: “Passengers and freight users will once more be put front and centre of a service designed and run for their needs. These changes will take time, but I am determined to get to work quickly with the industry and government.
“The pandemic has created significant challenges for the industry, and that means the changes we have to make are even more urgent. We must attract passengers back, deliver efficiencies and improve the service we provide.”
Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stewart has lobbied ministers since he was first elected in 2010 to introduce flexible season tickets to help the many commuters living in and around Milton Keynes.
“This new ticket offer will benefit lots of rail travellers in Milton Keynes,” he said. “For a long time, I have been advocating a part time season ticket for people who commute by train regularly but not often enough for a full season ticket.
“The need is even greater now as more people split their working time between home and office. I am delighted it is now going to be introduced.”
Ben Everitt, MP for Milton Keynes North, added: “Milton Keynes is at the heart of the East-West Rail and just a short trip on a train from both London and Birmingham so ensuring affordable, reliable and flexible rail travel is absolutely key to our future.
“I am encouraged by the plans for Great British Railways announced by the Transport Secretary and look forward to the introduction of flexible season tickets which will help MK’s commuters as the world of work changes with more people working from home.”
Under the plan, new national rail contracts will be announced later this year. They will be in operation for two years.