It was announced this week in The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail that a new public body, Great British Railways, is to integrate the UK rail network with the aim of solidifying a passenger-first, low fare future for UK rail travel.
Reliability has been a buzzword in the rail sector across the last decade; how can train operators ensure dependable, reliable services are being consistently delivered whilst keeping costs down and placing the passenger at the centre? Today (20th May 2021) the government unveiled new plans to bring national rail under a single, accountable body of leadership.
Great British Railways will, the government says, ‘integrate the railways, owning the infrastructure, collecting fare revenue, running and planning the network and setting most fares and timetables’. Aiming to quell the rise in fragmented ticketing with a new flexible season ticket and a roll out of ‘pay as you go’ travel through contactless payments and digital ticketing on smartphones, Great British Railways hope this will provide simplification to what is a confusing compensation, query and refund system which differs from operator to operator.
This is not the end of private sector operations. Great British Railways will continue to work in tandem with private partners to deliver the network. The planned partnership will mirror the model used by Transport for London and its Overground and Docklands Light Railway services.
It is hoped that this passenger-first framework will incentivise investment in the UK rail network, working to improve timetables, reliability, overall on-train experience and most of all cost. It is also hoped that the move will encourage rail usage to rise back to pre-pandemic levels. With the global realisation that most of our working life can be managed from a home office the public transport industry has begun to question whether the daily commuter numbers will ever return to what they were.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said this morning: “I am a great believer in rail, but for too long passengers have not has the level of service they deserve... By creating Great British Railways and investing in the future of the network, this government will deliver a rail system the country can be proud of.”
Local communities now have the opportunity to work with Great British Rail to design services in tandem with local leaders enabling control over local ticketing, timetabling and stations.
The passenger-first move begins today with the announcement of new National Rail Contracts for TransPennine Express and South Western Railway which have two-year terms until May 2023.
Revolutionising rail starts with putting the passenger first, we’ve written a piece on how real-time passenger intelligence and technology can offer a more premium service to passengers and encourage a return to rail, you can read it by clicking the link below.