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‘Great British Railways’ won’t be created until after election yet has 200 staff



‘Great British Railways’ won’t be created until after election yet has 200 staff

Industry leaders have urged the Government to bring forward legislation to create the flagship “Great British Railways” body as soon as possible, after i revealed 200 staff already on full pay are “sat around, twiddling their thumbs”.

The rail plans, which were first outlined in 2021 under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have only been published as draft legislation and are unlikely to make it onto the statute book by the next election.

The Government has pledged to launch Great British Railways as a new regulator to oversee the rail network following a review. Legislation for the rail body was promised at the latest King’s Speech but a draft bill was only published last week.

The Government had hoped to launch the organisation officially in 2023 but the delays have led to some staff working on the “transition team” for more than two-and-a-half years.

Cameron Jones, chief commercial officer at Silver Rail, a rail firm which works with train operating companies, told i that the legislation “urgently” needed to be brought this year.

He said: “It’s clear that putting Great British Railways (GBR) into practice is going to take longer than expected – especially considering the promises that were set out by the government in 2021 are yet to become a reality. While questions are being raised about the current state of the GBR body and its value-for-money, at the end of the day that’s a political question; and largely irrelevant for the people who rely on rail up and down the country.

“GBR can no longer be used as a political football. The industry – and the people it serves – need GBR to tackle the inherent challenges within British rail: increasing centralisation, eradicating waste and putting the passenger at the heart of the rail travel proposition.

“Undoubtedly, this draft bill is a step in the right direction and signals that the government understands that changes need to be made, for the good of the passenger and the future of the rail industry. But we can’t lose the sense of urgency. This draft needs to be legislated in 2024.”

The intervention comes as i revealed the scale of the delays on the project, which has seen plans for Great British Railways sit “on the shelf, ready to go”.

One insider told i that those on the project have been left with “minimal” to do while they wait for primary legislation to be passed.

They said: “You’ve got a situation where ambitious people are having to sit around and twiddle their thumbs, waiting for legislation to come. Some people have been seconded from other departments, some are even on secondments from other secondments. Minimal work is occurring currently, with some only having one meeting a day.”

“Some staff have considered leaving the project over this, as there’s just so little going on.”

Another said they had quit Great British Railways due to the little work being done. They said: “I stopped working there as nothing was happening. It’s not been the focus of ministers whatsoever, as the process has lacked leadership.”

Labour’s Shadow Rail Minister, Stephen Morgan, told i: “With record high cancellations, ongoing strikes, and ever-rising fares, it is clear that urgent reform of our railways is desperately needed.

“Yet after five years of promises to deliver reform, the Conservatives have nothing to show for it except rapidly rising costs.”

A DfT spokesperson previously said of GBR: “These claims are not right – in reality, substantial progress is being made on our plan to deliver rail reform so they better deliver for passengers, with work continuing at pace.

“This includes expanding Pay As You Go ticketing, trialling simpler fares, setting a rail freight growth target, and now publishing the draft bill – all while the GBR transition team lays the foundations for our plans to create a modern and financially secure rail network.”

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