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Franchise competitions spark start of rail reforms

NCE stock rail

The government has published its vision for rail, which puts down on paper plans to reopen mothballed lines and for train operating companies and Network Rail to work in partnership at route level.

It comes as a consultation on the Great Western franchise is published, which moots splitting it up.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling today said that more lines around Bristol, Exeter and the North East could be reopened as part of the new rail vision. The plans are laid out in a Department for Transport document called ‘Connecting people: a strategic vision for rail’ and bring together ideas which have already been widely discussed and planned for within the rail sector as plans for route devolution by CP6 get going.

In a statement to Parliament, Grayling said: “We are bringing the organisations that run the tracks and trains closer together to deliver better services for passengers. We are pressing ahead with Network Rail devolution to a series of route based businesses. We are investing in upgrades to the network to deliver faster journey times, more capacity, and unlock growth.”

The government says it wants to implement a new generation of long-term integrated partnerships between track and train, with a ‘one team’ culture. There will be a new role for train companies to influence infrastructure enhancements as well as some use of management contracts. The plans also include some more locally-focused train companies, such as East West Rail, the body delivering the route between Oxford and Cambridge.

Plans are in hand to launch the East Coast Partnership, which will be the first regional partnership bringing track and train together under a single brand. The South East franchise, which has also now opened for competition, will be the first having a joint team running day-to-day rail operations and trains.

The routes previously closed under British Rail which are being considered for reopening are:

  • Exeter to Okehampton and Bere Alston to Tavistock
  • Bristol to Portishead and Bristol to Henbury
  • Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line in the North East.

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