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Rail shake-up could put trains on the right track, says Chamber

01 December 2017

The government has announced a shake-up on the railways which include plans to scrap the current system where rail operators do not have responsibility for the track their trains run on.

There will also be far-reaching changes to the current franchising system, and also the possible re-introduction of lines lost during the infamous Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

The new vision for the UK’s railways was set out by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, and this included a commitment to expand the railway network to boost housing and economic growth, and deliver major passenger benefits, such as rolling out improved compensation schemes for passengers.

The sweeping proposals will create joined up teams running track and train, and will make the railway more reliable for passengers and ensure that it works as one to deliver for its customers.

Changes to the franchising system include introducing smaller train companies, ensuring that every line, station and passenger is central to each train operator’s strategy.

Mr Grayling said: “The last few years have seen massive growth on Britain’s railways. This industry has reversed decades of decline under British Rail, delivered new investment and new trains, and doubled the number of passengers.

“But now we need to build on that success by building a new model for the 2020s and beyond, one more able to deal with the huge rise in passenger numbers and the challenges of an increasingly congested network.

“Rail passengers deserve a more reliable, more efficient service – and I will deliver it by ending the one-size-fits-all approach of franchising and bringing closer together the best of the public and private sector.”

GBCC chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “We welcome greater regional autonomy for the railways. As bodies such as West Midlands Rail are demonstrating, there is a need for ground-up knowledge in making the most of our transport networks.

“The acid test is efficiency and whether these measures will improve the reliability of our trains.

In the strategy, there is talk of opening up new stations, and this is echoed in the West Midlands region by the Mayor’s proposal to reopen the Camp Hill line between Birmingham New Street and Kings Norton, which has been freight only since the onset of the Second World War.

“It could be a useful opportunity to free up capacity, which in turn will offer a welcome boost to regional productivity.”

Jane Gratton, head of business environment at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “The prospect of increasing capacity by re-opening some railway routes will be cheered by business communities across the UK, and help to crowd in local housing and economic developments. It will go some way to reassure firms in the regions that their economy is not being neglected, following the cancellation of some of the electrification plans earlier this year. 

“The new joint teams need to have regular dialogue with businesses to better understand the issues and opportunities at the local level, and businesses must be consulted on the competitions for new franchises.

“We look forward to working with government to ensure that the UK’s rail infrastructure is reliable and fit for purpose as we leave the European Union, giving UK businesses the best domestic environment possible in which to thrive.”

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