Government Announces Sweeping Reforms to the Railways in Britain

The UK government has announced sweeping reforms, the Williams-Shapps Plan, the how the railways work in Britain.

Under this plan, the government will set up a new public body called Great British Railways. This purpose of this body is to bring together what is currently a fragmented system. It will own the infrastructure, be responsible for collecting fare revenues, running and planning the network, and setting the majority of fares and timetables.

Train operating companies, which up until the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic had been running services via franchise agreements, will now run services under Passenger Service Contracts, meaning that the government will pay TOCs for running services while setting and collecting fares. Such concession-based agreements already exist for Transport for London and Docklands Light Railway.

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Train operating companies will be rewarded for running punctual services. They will also be incentivised to increase passenger numbers. Operators running long-distance services will have “more commercial freedom”.

Another aspect of the reforms will be a simplification of tickets as well as the introduction of new flexible season tickets. Pay As You Go contactless, digital ticketing will also be made available on smartphones in a move to increase convenience for passengers. New season tickets will go on sale on 21 June and a new Great British Railways website will launch to sell tickets, issue compensation and refunds and provide passengers with information.