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GBR publishes stakeholder report as government starts legislation process

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The Great British Railways Transition Team has published a report summarising evidence received from the 307 organisations and individuals that responded to its call for evidence. Key themes include decarbonisation, accessibility, the need for a strong customer service ethos and financial sustainability, as well as the importance of integrating with other transport.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail.

Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines, who is heading up the Transition Team, said in his summary of the evidence: “We have been keen to learn the lessons of the past as we continue with the work of developing the first version of the strategy, the Whole Industry Strategic Plan. It must not be an aspirational list of investment schemes, and we must, as the Plan for Rail recognises, be consultative and collaborative throughout the development process.

“In December we launched a call for evidence, alongside the Department for Transport, to gather meaningful insights and data from as wide a range of stakeholders as possible. Respondents were asked to provide evidence based on five key strategic objectives, which were set by the government for the rail industry to deliver: meeting customer needs, delivering financial sustainability, contributing to economic growth, supporting levelling up and connectivity, and delivering environmental sustainability.

“We reached out to a wide range of organisations and experts, meeting more than 400 stakeholders and receiving 307 responses. The evidence we gathered, summarised in this report, provides insights from across both the public and private sector.

“Some clear themes emerged from the responses, such as the importance of decarbonisation, accessibility, and customer service; rail’s contribution to ‘levelling up’ and integration with other forms of transport; the need for much greater efficiency; and a recognition that rail isn’t always the answer.”

Simultaneously with the publication of both the summary and full reports on the evidence that the Transition Team received, the Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation asking for opinions on proposed changes to primary legislation required to bring about rail reform. This consultation covers:

  • Core functions and duties of Great British Railways;
  • New governance framework;
  • Reform of wider industry structures and processes.

The DfT also seeking evidence of the risks and potential implications of the policies proposed to inform its impact assessments, including any potential costs, benefits, disadvantages or risks.

Darren Caplan, Railway Industry Association.

In response to these two moves, Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), commented: “These announcements are a welcome step forward in the journey to establish Great British Railways and its passage through Parliament.

“Thousands of rail businesses play a vital role in the construction and operation of the UK’s railways, and so it is good to see the Government recognise the need to harness the ‘best of the private sector’. We also support the proposal for the licence from Government to require GBR to encourage private sector involvement and take account of the benefits of rail investment for the economy and the supply chain.

“Whilst this process takes place, it is vital that the Government avoids a hiatus in current work and decision-making on rail projects, and gets on with delivering these reforms to provide businesses with as much certainty as possible.

“This consultation comes at an important time. It is clear that passengers are returning to the railway in strong numbers on all days of the week, reaching over 90% of pre-pandemic levels in May. Given the clear demand for rail travel, it is essential that GBRTT is ambitious about rail’s future and maximises the benefits of investment, to ensure rail is the backbone of a reliable and clean transport system.

“We will continue to work with our members to review and respond to the consultation by the deadline of 4 August.”

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