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Draft Rail Reform Bill in King’s Speech

The government has included a Draft Rail Reform Bill in today’s (Nov 7) King’s Speech.

The Bill is designed to set the foundations for further progress with rail reform, including the creation of Great British Railways (GBR).

As a draft Bill, a parliamentary committee will oversee pre-legislative scrutiny of the provisions of the Bill.

The King’s Speech briefing notes state: “The draft Rail Reform Bill sets a bold vision for future rail customers – of punctual and reliable services, simpler tickets and a modern and innovative railway that meets the needs of the nation. It helps deliver on the 2019 manifesto commitment by bringing forward the biggest rail reform programme in a generation to create a simpler, more effective rail system.

“Given the scale and complexity of the changes being made to the sector, it is right that the draft Bill undergoes pre-legislative scrutiny to provide Parliamentarians and experts across industry the opportunity to review and test the legislation in draft. This will allow for a swifter passage through Parliament when the legislation is brought forward.”

The notes add that the Draft Bill will enable:

  • More accountability;
  • Better service;
  • Smarter growth;
  • Greater efficiency;
  • Improved focus on customers through specific accessibility and freight duties.

Under accountability, the notes state: “The Secretary of State’s franchising authority functions will be transferred to Great British Railways, ensuring that operational and infrastructure decisions are made in a co-ordinated way. The new body will serve as the single point of accountability for the performance of the railway where previously it was split between Network Rail and the Secretary of State.”

The notes also add: “Whilst this primary legislation is needed to establish Great British Railways, many reforms and tangible benefits for rail users are being delivered now. This includes simplifying fares and continuing the rollout of Pay As You Go and barcode ticketing, building local partnerships, a new Rail Freight Growth Target, simplifying industry practices, improving rail contracts and delivering workforce reforms.”

The headquarters of GBR is set to be based in Derby (pictured), following the results of a public vote.

Community Rail Network will continue to work closely with the GBR Transition Team, as well as government and industry colleagues, to ensure community rail is recognised and supported, and its insights utilised through the process of rail transition and transformation, and opportunities seized to further empower the movement.

We will provide further updates on rail reform when appropriate. In the meantime, you can speak to your usual contact should you have any queries. You can also read about our input into the rail transformation process in this briefing from September 2022.