THE GOVERNMENT’S move to nationalise the railway with a new train operator could be ‘great news for Worcester’.
That’s the view of the city’s MP Robin Walker who said the introduction of Great British Railways (GBR) had the potential to provide much-needed improvements for city commuters.
Mr Walker spoke out after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed the privatisation of the rail network had been shunted into the sidings after more than a quarter of a century.
Numerous companies have been charged with providing rail services around Britain following the privatisation of British Rail under John Major’s Conservative Government between 1994 and 1997.
Operators have seen their licences revoked for poor performance while commuters have been left scratching their heads at bookings and out of control fares.
Mr Walker cited the example of meetings to secure the new Worcestershire Parkway station which saw him tackle different rail companies, Network Rail and the Department of Transport.
The new set up should allow for better accountability to local councils, MPs and regional mayors and Mr Shapps has promised a greater say for towns and cities in the way the railways work.
The first change passengers will notice will be flexible season tickets from June which will cater to the significant change in working patterns as a result of the pandemic, including many people now working from home more regularly.
The flexible season tickets will offer travel on eight days in a 28-day period. The Government also said it would eradicate uncomfortable ‘ironing-board seating’, and make efforts to ensure fewer repetitious and annoying pre-recorded announcements on services.
In the longer-term passengers will see a more modern look and feel to the rail network, with train travel becoming cleaner and greener for both freight and commuter travel.
It is hoped GBR will also provide a single organisation passengers can complain to in the event of problems and failures in the provision of service can hold train operators to account.
“This is a very welcome change which should simplify the maze of organisations who are accountable for rail travel in Britain,” Mr Walker said.
“We need to ensure the creation of regional organisations doesn’t mean places like Worcester being neglected in favour of nearby big cities.
“As we continue to grow our local economy the case for a two hour journey from Worcester to London, and more frequent services to and from the capital, is growing and in GBR we will hopefully an organisation able to listen to the arguments and with the clout to deliver on this.”
Under the reforms, GBR will own and maintain rail infrastructure and collect and set fares.
It will contract private companies to run services under its banner.