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BBT March/April 2018
March/April 2018
For Business, Corporate Travel & Meeting Buyers & Arrangers

Chris Grayling unveils major shake-up for UK rail network

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has unveiled plans to completely overhaul the running of the country’s rail network.

He plans for each franchise such as Virgin Trains West Coast, Great Eastern and Midland to be run by joint management teams from both Network Rail and the operating company – joining up the operation of tracks and trains.

The major shake-up reverses plans from the rail privatisation project initiated in 1993 by John Major’s Conservative party. It saw the break-up of public-owned British Rail and separated infrastructure such as signalling and track maintenance from the trains and services running on those lines.

In a keynote speech today at the Policy Exchange think tank in London, Grayling will argue the relationship between the tracks and trains must change.

“In my experience, passengers don’t understand the division between the two. They just want someone to be in charge. They want their train to work. I agree with them.

“I intend to start bringing back together the operation of track and train on our railways... our railway is much better-run by one joined-up team of people. They don’t have to work for the same company. They do have to work in the same team,” Grayling said.

The RMT union said it would fight against the plans. “This is the Tory government dragging the railways back to the failed and lethal Railtrack model of the private sector running infrastructure,” said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.

“The idea that what Britain’s railways need is more privatisation is ludicrous,” he added.

The changes will come in as each franchise is renewed over the next few years.

First new franchise

Under the new plans the government wants a fully privatised railway line, linking Oxford and Cambridge - It will not be run by Network Rail.

The link, which was axed in the Beeching report in the 1960s, will have a branch to Milton Keynes and eventually extend to Norwich and Ipswich.

A new organisation, East West Rail, will be created to secure investment and build the line, eventually becoming a private company that operates train services.

Grayling told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it’s taking the line out of Network Rail’s control so it can be delivered quicker.

“Network Rail has got a huge number of projects to deliver at the moment... I want it to happen quicker. This is an essential corridor for this country. On that route we are going to being in private finance, in a form to be decided.”


The original intention of the track-train separation at privatisation was to allow competitive entry of train operators and to allow overlapping franchises to compete. Research into the effects of the latter by NERA in the early 2000 showed that, where there were overlaps, fares were lower and frequencies often higher. However governments have continually rowed back on the original intent and have amalgamated franchises. The Competition Commission earlier this year recommended more competition including more franchise overlap which the Government recently ignored with its proposal for amalgamation of the existing West Coast franchise with HS2. The current proposal will make competition less likely, strengthening the command and control instincts of the Department.

David Starkie's picture
David Starkie (not verified)

Build a link between LHR and LGW and let pax connect easily, rather than over Central London.

tc's picture
tc (not verified)

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