Britain’s railways will be ‘renationalised’ using emergency coronavirus measures – ending the current franchise system
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has revealed plans to ‘renationalise’ railways
- Under his proposals, ministers would have control over fares and timetables
- His plans will be revealed in a report of an independent review into UK railways
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
The government will ‘renationalise’ Britain’s railways using emergency coronavirus measures, it has been revealed.
The move would see the end of the current franchise system, which was set up by John Major.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has claimed the pandemic has provided the government the chance to build a ‘different type of railway’.
Under the plans, the government would give train operators a fixed fee to seize control of all routes and collect fares.
Mr Shapps’ new system, which he will likely oversee as part of a board, would give control of fares and timetables to ministers.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ proposals are expected to be included in the final report of a 21-month independent review into Britain’s railways
He told the Commons transport committee that his proposal would ‘bring the railway back together’.
Mr Shapps compared his system to Transport for London, which sees contracted operators run overground lines as ‘concessions’.
Network Rail is expected to be given the power to award these contracts, decide how many services to run and even set targets for operators.
Mr Shapps’ proposals are expected to be included in the final report of a 21-month independent review into Britain’s railways by Keith Williams, former British Airways chief executive.
The minister promised the long-awaited review would spell out his plans in more detail.
He added: ‘The route between where we are and where we were has been changing and you might say speeded up’.
The current system sees franchise owners collect fares, giving a percentage to the Exchequer.
This incentivises them to maximise their incomes and can have an effect on prices for commuters.
It follows the government’s decision to bring railways under its control at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, to protect the revenues of franchises.
Passenger numbers plummeted amid the outbreak, forcing the government to make deals with train operators.
Those deals will end in September, however, paving the way for a restructuring of Britain’s railways.
He told the Commons transport committee that his proposal would ‘bring the railway back together’
The Transport minister also committed to erecting a memorial for workers who died during the pandemic.
He suggested the memorial could be placed at Victoria Station in London, to commemorate the death of ticker officer Belly Mujinga.
Ms Mujinga died in April, just days after a man who said he had the virus spat and coughed at her as she worked.
The minister said: ‘I have spoken to the unions and others about doing something in the slightly longer term to commemorate transport workers’ extraordinary input and effort to assisting this country in this time of crisis.
‘We don’t know whether it [Ms Mujinga’s death] was connected to that incident, but nonetheless that might be an appropriate location to remember all transport worker.’
Mr Shapps also admitted that the government would likely prioritise cyclists over drivers post-coronavirus.
He noted that bike use doubled during the week and trebled at weekends when lockdown was at its height and said local authorities should reprioritise road space.
He said: ‘The trick is to keep this going, which requires more than the large sums we’re putting in. It also requires a change in culture.’
In May, the government unveiled a £2 billion package to encourage cycling and walking, with £250 million immediately available for temporary measures to aid social distancing.
But, speaking to the transport committee, Mr Shapps admitted that his plan to bring half a million unused bikes back into service with £50 towards repairs and overhaul has yet to issue a single voucher.
He said: ‘We have a problem. There is a massive waiting list for everything to do with bikes.’