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Grayling promises rail reform before next election

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Transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced the terms of reference for the government rail review, adding that he expects rail industry reform to begin before the next General Election.

The rail review will consider issues such as the train operating franchise system and whether services provide value for money.

Grayling has dismissed calls for rail renationalisation.   

“We expect reform to begin from 2020, so passengers will see benefits before the next election,”  said Grayling told the House of Commons. “It will look forensically at the different options. It will then make recommendations on what will best deliver results in different areas of the country.”

Last month the government announced a “sweeping review to transform Britain’s railways”. The review will conclude with a White Paper in Autumn 2019 which will outline its findings and explain how the government will deliver reform

John Lewis deputy chairman and former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams will lead the review.

Williams will work with an independent panel from around the UK with experts drawn from rail, business and customer service.

Labour has called for the renationalisation of the railways. But Grayling told MPs that privatisation had improved the industry.

Grayling said: “Some have called for the return to a national state-run monopoly and for us to go back to the days of British Rail. There is an expectation that taking hundreds of millions of pounds of debt onto the government books will magically resolve every problem.

“This fails to recognise that many of the problems that customers faced this year were down to the nationalised parts of the railway.

“It also creates the false sense that a government-controlled rebrand would somehow make every train work on time. Those who make this argument fail to tell passengers that the much-needed investment that is taking place today would be at risk and that taxpayers’ money would be diverted from public services to subsidise losses.”

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald questioned why the no terms of reference had been made available in advance of the statement and even whether the review was at all necessary.

“His [Grayling’s] reviews  are not far-reaching or sweeping or root and branch. It is none of these things. It is a predetermined prevarication,” he said.

“It is a way for him to cover up his disastrous failure to run the railway properly and kick it into the long grass for a year.” 

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