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Transport secretary unveils rail reform plans for joined-up approach to track & train

6 December 2016  •  Author: Katie Sadler, European Railway Review

Under rail reform plans proposed by Transport Minister Chris Grayling, rail operators in England will be required to manage services and track infrastructure through close partnership with Network Rail.

Network Rail

Mr Grayling has called for each franchise to be run by joint management teams coming from both train operating companies and Network Rail, helping to resolve problems more quickly and “putting the needs of the passenger first”.

Rail reform plans aim to put the “needs of the passenger first”

“I intend to start bringing back together the operation of track and train on our railways. Our railway is much better run by one joined up team of people. They don’t have to work for the same company. They do have to work in the same team,” said the Transport Minister.

East West Rail link will be first new integrated rail operation in decades

According to the government, better operation of track and train across the rail network will be achieved through new rail franchises, the first of which will be on the South Eastern and East Midlands lines in 2018. Both will be expected to include integrated operating teams between train services and infrastructure. Furthermore, the new East West Rail link – a strategic railway connecting East Anglia with Central, Southern and Western England – will be England’s first new integrated rail operation in decades that is separate to Network Rail.

“We strongly welcome these plans to bring more joined up working within the industry”

Commenting on the plans, chief executive of Network Rail Mark Carne said: “We strongly welcome these plans to bring more joined up working within the industry. We have already devolved Network Rail into route-based businesses closer to customers, and the proposals announced today will build on the alliances we have created between these route businesses and train operators. We also strongly believe there should be better alignment of incentives between train companies and Network Rail.”

Welcoming the announcement, Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Everyone in the railway wants to transform services for our customers, including better reliability. The Secretary of State is setting out a positive vision that we can all support, and one that together we want to make work. We need to ensure that every part of our railway is more joined-up and working closer together – one railway pulling in the same direction.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, added: “Passengers want to see a more joined up railway with trains and track companies working much more closely. So these proposals, in time, could make a positive difference to the things passengers care most about: reliability and value for money.

“The key in any new arrangements is putting passengers, their satisfaction and priorities for improvement at the heart of them. It is the outcomes that are most important for passengers.”

Warning that Government reforms to the structure of our railways must benefit freight shippers as well as passengers, RFG Executive Director Maggie Simpson said “Freight customers may not be as vocal as passengers, but they share a common desire for a high performing and cost effective railway which deliver for their needs.  Government’s recently published rail freight strategy recognises this, and we look forward to working together on the details of these proposals to ensure that they are a success for everyone.”

Transport Minister Chris Grayling will be making his key note speech on “a rail policy for the 21st century” on the evening of Tuesday 6th December.

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