The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

2 min read
Jul 1, 2021 8:04:00 AM

Moving forwards together for passengers

In the biggest change to the rail sector in 25 years, the new Public Body, Great British Railways, is bringing the sector together under one brand and identity that prioritises passengers.

Fragmentation of British railways that has been rife over the last few decades finally came to an end in May when the Government announced a new single leadership that puts passengers and freight at the forefront of its plans.

Great British Railways (GBR), will simplify the somewhat complicated structure by contracting with private companies to operate under the same timetable and fares that it sets. The new approach includes incentives for private contractors to work together to run safe, high-quality, punctual services that will attract more passengers in a post-pandemic world.

The rail sector suffered dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, with passenger demand almost lost entirely. Prior to this, commuters made up 47% of all rail passengers1. Following the shake-up, GBR has introduced a new flexible season ticket to reflect to the increase in home working. GBR will also be implementing simpler payment and refund options and make it easier for passengers to access information.

Canva British Rail

The new structure also promises to provide greater opportunities for continued growth of freight, which, throughout the pandemic, played a key role in delivering food and medical supplied across the country.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said:

“Our railways were born and built to serve this country, to forge stronger connections between our communities and provide people with an affordable, reliable and rapid service. Years of fragmentation, confusion and over-complication have seen that vision fade and passengers failed. That complicated and broken system ends today.

The pandemic has seen the government take unprecedented steps to protect services and jobs. It’s now time to kickstart reforms that give the railways solid and stable foundations for the future, unleashing the competitive, innovative and expert abilities of the private sector, and ensuring passengers come first.

Great British Railways marks a new era in the history of our railways. It will become a single familiar brand with a bold new vision for passengers – of punctual services, simpler tickets and a modern and green railway that meets the needs of the nation.”

Great British Railways aim to make the British rail sector a “world-class magnet for talent”2, with the introduction of investment in skills, training and leadership – including apprenticeships. This will support staff at every stage of their career and improve the overall service for customers.

1. NTS0409, National Travel Survey
2. Department for Transport. (2021). Great British Railways: The Williams-Schapps Plan for Rail [White Paper].

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