Government sets out vision for future of Britain’s railways in draft Rail Reform Bill

The Department for Transport has set out its vision for the future of Britain’s railways via the publication of a draft Rail Reform Bill.

The bill outlines a blueprint for bringing track and train together under a new Integrated Rail Body, Great British Railways (GBR).

The government states that GBR will bring together responsibility for both rail infrastructure and services, to ‘provide clearer lines of accountability and help build a more modern and financially secure sector and a network that is more adaptable and more efficient.’

The draft bill will now undergo pre-legislative scrutiny to provide parliamentarians and industry experts the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the legislation. Scrutiny will be led by the Transport Select Committee.

During last night’s 2024 George Bradshaw address (which you can read a summary of here), Huw Merriman MP, Minister of State for Rail and HS2, said he hoped scrutiny of the bill could be completed by this summer.

Alongside the draft Rail Reform Bill, the government also published its response to the public consultation on its Plan for Rail. This sets out how the public’s views on the proposed reforms have informed what has been taken forward in the draft legislation. You can read Community Rail Network’s submission here.

The government states that the draft reform bill will enable more accountability, better service, smarter growth of the sector, greater efficiency, and an improved focus on customers.

Responding to publication of the draft bill, Community Rail Network chief executive Jools Townsend said: “We welcome the draft bill, which we hope represents the start of a new era for rail, with it playing a more central role within our communities and helping us to create a sustainable transport future.

“Commitments to ensuring community needs are at the heart of rail decision-making will be crucial in delivering a railway that works for everyone, and enabling the modal shift we need, towards far more journeys made by rail, alongside buses, active travel, and community and shared mobility.

“At Community Rail Network, we are engaged in active dialogue with partners in government and the rail industry, to support the development of a more community-focused railway that delivers maximum social, environmental and economic value, now and for generations to come.”