Palace of Westminster

UK: ‘Her Majesty’s Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovation. Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers’, Prince Charles said when reading the Queen’s Speech in place of his mother at the opening of parliament on May 10.

Responding to the speech, Railway Industry Association CEO Darren Caplan said ‘the railway industry will welcome the inclusion of a new Transport Bill in the Queen’s Speech today. However, it would have been good to see Great British Railways specifically mentioned in the speech, to ensure we can make progress.

‘With the introduction of rail legislation, RIA has set out “five tests” for GBR as it is established. These include the need to ensure there is no hiatus in rail work as the restructure takes place, that the new organisation is transparent, open and accessible, and that it supports a sustainable rail supply sector which encourages private investment. The ultimate challenge is to ensure GBR leaves a positive legacy, when it comes to safety, decarbonisation, exports and the economy.’

Andy Bagnall, Director General at the Rail Delivery Group which represents operators, said ‘this is an important milestone towards delivering a better railway for customers and the nation as a whole with Great British Railways having the potential to join up the railway.

‘To make these reforms a success, this needs to be balanced with giving private operators the contractual freedom to focus relentlessly on customers, and boldly innovate to meet their needs.

‘The private sector will continue to work with government and the Great British Railways Transition Team to ensure these reforms meet the ambition and potential of the Williams Shapps Plan for Rail.’

Transport for the North CEO Martin Tugwell said ’it is reassuring to hear clear mentions of the need for rail reform in today’s Queen’s Speech, something that we and our region’s political and business leaders have been calling for and contributing to. Combined with a focus on innovation and decarbonisation, and underpinned by the ongoing commitment to levelling up, this is a welcome commitment to enhancing connectivity.

‘We now need greater detail on the role of sub-national transport bodies within the new Transport Bill, setting out how we can offer our regional insights and expertise to help deliver a new rail regulatory framework that puts passengers first. Transport for the North is ready and waiting to be at the forefront of the government’s plans to make levelling up a reality and create a sustainable transport network across the North of England.’

Jonathan Bray, Director of the Urban Transport Group of transport authorities, said ’we welcome today’s announcement of a new Transport Bill which, if true to the government’s wider devolutionary objectives, should provide an opportunity to deepen and extend the proven benefits of local decision making on local transport.

‘On rail, we want to see the legislation facilitate the full range of options for devolving responsibilities for local and urban rail services to transport authorities so that more places can benefit from the kind of transformation in rail services that, thanks to local control, has already happened on London Overground and on Merseyrail.’

RMT trade union General Secretary Michael Lynch said ‘the government is attempting to revive the corpse of rail privatisation with its Railways Bill which will reward private train operators for failure with new contracts without any financial risk to their shareholders.’