DfT has made a number of important announcements about the future of rail delivery in Great Britain in the short and medium term. These have the capacity to be a reset for the public priorities for service delivery in the industry as well as the way those services are provided.
Williams - Shapps White Paper
Government's plans for restructuring the industry have been delayed a number of times from their original planned release. The Williams review of industry structure was supported by Theresa May's government, delayed when Brexit caused a change of leadership then delayed again by the pandemic. They have now been released in updated form promising to "deliver an efficient, financially sustainable railway that meets the needs of passengers and those who rely on rail on a daily basis."
The plan will bring in a new public body, Great British Railways, combining network management with fare setting and collection and the setting of timetables. Private train operators are expected to continue to provide services to deliver the timetables and policy priorities and innovation and investment is expeted to continue.
Overall this amounts to a substantial restructuring, more significant than any since the franchising model was introduced from 1994 amounting to a shift of emphasis and management decision making.
New National Rail Contracts
At the same time DfT announced the entry of new National Rail Contracts with Transpennine Express and South Western Railway to take effect from the end of May. These contracts will take effect when the Franchise Agremeents terminate. Those franchises were amended at the start of the pandemic by Emergency Measures and Emergency Recovery Measures agreements to reflect the deep impact on ridership and operation arising from the pandemic response.
The new NRCs will preserve the delivery of services on both networks on the basis of DfT paying fees to the operator to achieve certain outcomes. They ensure a continuity and reliabiltiy of services while new arrangement are developed in line with the white paper.
A New Flexible Season Ticket
DfT has recgonised that new working practices have emerged during the pandemic and greater flexibility is likely to be a part of the future of travel. As such a new flexible season ticket is to be introduced to meet demand from hybrid workerers who split their time between an office and home. The ticket will allow season-ticket travel on any 8 days within a 28 day period.
There is a substantial change and response ongoing in the railway industry to meet new public and passenger priorities and expectations. As the substantial changes caused by the pandemic unwind this year, these will set the direction for future developments.
This white paper sets out our plan for a revolution on the railways in Great Britain.