UK’s rail networked will be changed to Great British Railways as part of reorganizing, aiming at simplifying the organizational turmoil of the franchise system and reestablish the number of passengers following the coronavirus pandemic.
It is 25 years since the rail network was privatized and broken up. The new public body will take charge and be responsible for setting ticket prices, maintain infrastructure, timetables, contracting private companies, and tracking. Private entities will still operate the train under new ‘Passenger Service Contracts’ that will be put under the malfunctioning franchise system.
Train operators who are mainly hired by European rail entities owned by the state will be paid to deliver specified services to increase the number of passengers and operate high-quality services. New adjustable season tickets will be provided to people using the train for transport two or three times per week from the end of June. This is part of the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced the number of commuters by around two-thirds.
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said the progress would enhance accountability among leaders under a trusted Great British Railways that people will know and like. Several unions have referred to the move as a ‘lost chance,’ saying they will not go far to overtake Britain’s railways.
Grant Shapps said Great Britain Railways would conduct all the possible aspects of the railways to have everything fixed. A devastating change in timetable happened in May 2018, and that’s when the whole system broke down. “When everyone asked who was responsible to the system, the response was no one,” he said.
The Great British Railways organization will use an advanced British Rail double-arrow trademark model, but it does not require going back to nationalism. The new model is the same as that of the Transport for London version, where private organizations operate transport services, including the Docklands Light Railway, which is run by central.
The new system results from a review of the network by Keith Williams, a former British Airways chief executive. He started the review after the system melted down in 2018. Shapps put his name in the review in April, and it will be presented before the parliament in a White Paper.
The plans have been speeded up by the pandemic, which has led commuters to work from home, and it is unpredictable when they return. All operations were handed over to a public-owned body, and all contracts pulled apart in response. The government has given out twelve billion sterling pounds in subsidies to keep the system operational.
According to the new organizational agreements, operators will be moving commuters with more digital, adaptable, and reasonable fares as part of the plans. The first operators’ group has already taken contracts under the new organization, with the Department of Transport for its TransPennine Express and South Western Railway running companies.
The contracts set to begin on May 30 have a service term of two years until May 2023, with a possibility of extension up to another two years. Jefferies Equity Research analysts proposed shareholders would take them in as the terms see the organization as bearing no revenue risk and reduced cost risk, with the yearly budget agreed with the Department of Transport. Although in the previous deals, shares went down by 27%, with market analysts holding Great British Railways responsible by limiting purchase options under the new system.
Chief Executive of Transport Focus said he thought commuters would take it as a great move towards a responsive, more efficient, and more joined-up railway. “We talked to many commuters before the review, and they said they needed to know who is in charge of the railway system, all they wanted was accountability so, running the trains, the track, the funding, and the planning in one place looks like a good move,” he said.
However, unions were not keen with the general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), Manuel Cortes, who disregarded the plan as a ‘hiding problem.’ He said a model based on a compromise will still have commuters, and selfish shareholders will still use taxpayers’ money in the form of a cash dividend.
Mick Lynch, one of the unions’ leaders, referred to the changes as a lost opportunity by the government to avoid the setbacks of the past system that have left Britain’s railways disastrous.” However, the state has demonstrated its commitment to take on the failures by proposing to save money by dealing with working practices- a regular argument.
The transport industry gave more information about how this critical transformation will affect the numerous commercial interests. Director-General of the Rail Delivery Group, Andy Bagnall, on behalf of train operators, said the companies have been demanding many of the changes in the white paper, and the proposal can initiate great transformation.
Understanding the information right will be important to ensuring the white paper meets its capability requirements; to give an independent direction, accountability, improve trips, and offer a new set of responsive fares.
The government states it has used about twelve billion sterling pounds supporting rail during the current world pandemic when almost all the revenue from the fare paid by commuters is unaccountable, and the figure is not sustainable. Shapps said the government is dedicated to rail, and the cost to the taxpayers will not go below the reported normal annual subsidy for several years.
Increasing fares for the passengers to cover the deficit would prevent the recovery even more. However, the transport sector is expected to lower commuter numbers due to differences in working patterns. Therefore the government is passionate about lowering costs. It expects that the new system alone will save one and a half billion sterling pounds inefficiencies with salaries and productivity under critical observation.
Probably there will be no fewer train services with the new system. Although train operators and track will be under one roof, GBR might opt for a more reliable and punctual schedule.