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Delayed White Paper review into Britain’s railways to be published

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The Government has pledged to publish a long-delayed major review of Britain’s railways.

A White Paper will be released containing proposals that will “transform the railways and deliver for passengers”, according to a document produced for the Queen’s Speech.

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The franchising model will be replaced by a “simpler, more effective system” involving contracts that “get trains running on time”.

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Other measures to improve rail travel include “modern ways to pay”, making it “accessible and inclusive”, and forming closer links with local communities.

The chaotic introduction of new timetables in May 2018 led the Department for Transport to appoint then-Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams to carry out a review of the railways.

A White Paper based on his findings was initially due to be published in autumn 2019 but was delayed by the general election and the coronavirus pandemic.

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On December 9 last year, rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris told the Commons Transport Select Committee that “it will be out, all being well, within the next six weeks”.

Meanwhile, the Government announced that it plans to introduce a Bill to provide the powers to build and operate HS2 between Crewe and Manchester.

Compulsory acquisition of land is one of the key elements of the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill.

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The Queen’s Speech also included a commitment to boost bus travel in England.

The Government’s National Bus Strategy, announced earlier this year, outlined how £3 billion of funding will be used to increase services and usage.

Andy Bagnall, director-general of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We welcome the Government’s Queen’s Speech commitment to increase connectivity across the public transport network.

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“We want to work with the Government as part of the planned reform of the railway to further boost connectivity by making fares easier for passengers – allowing people to mix and match fares to get the best deal for their needs and introducing London-style tap-in-tap-out capping for commuters in towns and cities across the country.”

Darren Caplan, chief executive of trade group the Railway Industry Association, said: “The Queen’s Speech today confirmed the long-awaited Williams Review White Paper on rail reform will be published shortly and, encouragingly, that investing in and improving national infrastructure to transform connectivity – and creating new jobs and skills to drive growth in sectors such as rail – is seen by the Government as key to strengthening economic ties across the UK.

“However, whilst HS2 is described today as being at the heart of the country’s plans to build back better from coronavirus, the Queen’s Speech omits any reference to the eastern leg of the scheme, which takes the high speed network to Leeds.

“We therefore urge the Government to clarify whether the eastern leg will be included in forthcoming legislation, with the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and North a priority.”

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Sam Hewitt
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