Sweeping reforms to the running of the railways have been announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The review by Mr Shapps, and former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams, will lead to the creation of Great British Railways (GBR) to own and manage rail infrastructure, issue contracts to private firms to run trains, set most fares and timetables, and sell tickets.
A new public body to oversee key areas of the railways will be set up, with Great British Railways (GBR) replacing Network Rail to operate 20,000 miles of track, signals and tunnels across the country by 2023.
Mr Shapps said that would mean “when things go wrong” there is a “fat controller” figure running the network.
He admitted the price of train tickets could rise as he revealed the biggest overhaul of Britain’s railways since privatisation almost three decades ago.
One campaign group accused ministers of ‘rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic’, while a union crucified a ‘missed opportunity by the Government to make a clean break from the failures of the past’.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: ‘The Conservatives have admitted that their Frankenstein privatisation experiment on our railways has failed and the franchising of train services has hit the buffers.
‘Rather than take the bold action that our rail network desperately needs, this is an attempt merely to paper over the cracks.
‘A concessions-based model will still see passengers and taxpayer money leak out of our industry in the form of dividend payments for the greedy shareholders of the private operators who will hold them.
‘In some ways we are going back to the future with the creation of a strategic body for our railways. We used to have one called the Strategic Rail Authority and it was abolished because it failed to end fragmentation.’
Today I’m launching the Williams-Shapps #PlanForRail – the biggest change to our railways in three decades.— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) May 20, 2021
I’m setting out how we can make our railways work better for you, the passengers 🚆
Read it in full here: https://t.co/mvnOtkKQLX pic.twitter.com/R7IXD9ibif
Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “Don’t be fooled into thinking the Tories’ ‘Make British Trains Great Again’ idea is the carefully thought out plan from our Labour manifesto. Bringing railways back into public ownership requires real investment to create a reliable, safer, greener & more #accessible service.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Tories’ ‘Make British Trains Great Again’ idea is the carefully thought out plan from our Labour manifesto. Bringing railways back into public ownership requires real investment to create a reliable, safer, greener & more #accessible service. pic.twitter.com/j7iwhaXwL0— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 20, 2021
Grant Shapps mishaps have been well documented over the years, and this wasn’t missed by some on Twitter.
I wouldn’t put Grant Shapps in charge of a Thomas the Tank engine set.— Julie Street 🇪🇺💙💙💙 (@Juliest101) May 20, 2021
Are they seriously gonna call the train thingy ‘Great British Railways?’ Sounds like a bunch of boy scouts high on Enid Blyton.— Mandoline 🐦 (@Mandoline_Blue) May 20, 2021
I’m very pleased with the final design for the Great British Railway staff uniforms. pic.twitter.com/HrYGgMRJ7h— Parody Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson_MP) May 20, 2021
‘GB Railways apologise for the delay to your service caused by flags on the line.’ https://t.co/siLzc2FzNC— Phil Syrpis (@syrpis) May 20, 2021
“Great British Railways”: British Rail renamed for the Bake Off generation.— Suzannah Lipscomb 💙 (@sixteenthCgirl) May 20, 2021
Portillo to lead GBR, staff uniform to include mustard slacks and heliotrope blazers.— Damon Wake (@damonwake) May 20, 2021
To go along with Great British Signal Failures, Great British Wrong Sort of Snow, Great British Late Running Member of Staff, Great British Leaves on the Track, Great British Over Running Engineering Work, Great British Derailment and Great British Trespassers on the Track.— Nick Lowe (@Lowesmore) May 20, 2021
It’s the Great British Rail Replacement Great British Bus.— Noëlle Having None of It (@noelle_nole1) May 20, 2021
putting Grant Shapps in charge of fixing Britain’s dilapidated rail network is like putting Grant Shapps in charge of fixing Britain’s dilapidated rail network— dave ❄️ 🥕 🧻 (@davemacladd) May 20, 2021
“Renationalise the railways but Grant Shapps is in charge of it” is real monkey’s paw stuff, isn’t it— Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley (@lottelydia) May 20, 2021
It could do with a few more flags. I can see a bit of roof at the back. pic.twitter.com/A7G2i6ul6t— Stephen McGann💙 (@StephenMcGann) May 20, 2021
Is the Great British Railway going to be a competition with a contestant voted out each week and the winner getting the contract for @SouthernRailUK ?— Sarah 💙 Mattocks 🌾🌾 (@sarah_mattocks) May 20, 2021
I’m going to make the trains run on time!— Parody Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson_MP) May 20, 2021
Then I’m going to move onto all the other great things that Mussolini did. pic.twitter.com/n4OroBEolq
‘Welcome to your Great British Railways service from Liverpool to Hull, it will take five hours, include two changes and cost you the best part of £70’ pic.twitter.com/OscVYGPSsj— Liam Thorp 💙 (@LiamThorpECHO) May 20, 2021