How Great British Railways will get North’s train services back on track – Grant Shapps

CLOSE to Keighley, in the small village of Oakworth, is a rail station that defines this 
country’s love affair with the railways.

With gas-lit lamps, a framed portrait of Queen Victoria, and polished signs for Brasso and Old Calabar dog food, it is a place near-frozen in time.

As the filming location for the Railway Children, which continues to host magnificent steam engines to this day, Oakworth shows how trains are woven into our national psyche.

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Britain invented, and then exported the railways, changing the world.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced his rail reforms.

Nowadays, we need them more than ever. We need them to reconnect our country post- Covid.

We need them to rebuild our economy. And we need them to meet our ambitious environmental commitments, and achieve net zero carbon emissions.

So I’m announcing a new vision for our railway – a plan that ensures we will be as proud of our railway future as we are of its past.

Great British Railways will be a single, familiar brand with a simple purpose – to deliver punctual, comfortable and clean services, and tickets that are easy to buy and understand.

Oakworth remains synonymous with the Railway Children, writes Grant Shapps.

GBR will provide accountable and clear leadership, taking responsibility for infrastructure, collecting fares and setting timetables, so you’ll know who is in charge.

Rather than different rail organisations arguing about who is responsible for delays as we see today, GBR will focus on resolving them.

A new system of tougher contracts will ensure we retain the most beneficial advantages of private sector involvement – innovation, ingenuity and creativity, to improve services for passengers.

They’ll only be paid when they perform, so there’s no excuse not to deliver a first-class experience on every journey you take.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps visits Leeds Train Station as it is announced that the Northern Rail franchise will only be able to continue "for a number of months". PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday January 9, 2020. The Northern Rail franchise will only be able to continue "for a number of months", according to the most recent financial information, the Government has said. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit to Leeds in January last year.

We are going to sort out and simplify ticketing. We’ll substantially increase contactless and pay-as-you go ticketing, and make fares 
fairer with new flexible 
season tickets. Part-time commuters could save hundreds of pounds.

For mayors and political leaders in Yorkshire and beyond, this new system will give greater control and a stronger voice, ensuring the services and stations in their area are designed around the 
passengers who use them 
every day.

As we build back better from the pandemic, the reforms will encourage people back to the railways by responding to their concerns.

For example, we’ll improve, or phase out, ‘‘ironing-board’’ seats. And we’ll protect off-peak services to support the late-night economy.

We’ll publish plans to make our trains cleaner and greener, along with a full accessibility audit, and a 30-year plan to ensure we invest where it’s needed most.

And we will continue to expand our railway, pressing on with our efforts to reverse Beeching closure and restore railways.

This is a bold new blueprint for a better railway, arriving exactly three years after a botched timetable change 
caused massive disruption 
for passengers across the 
North.

That dark chapter showed just how badly rail reform was required.

When I intervened to take back control of the Northern franchise, I promised to turn the page on our fragmented, unreliable railway, and get services back on track.

Now it’s time to turn the 
page. These ambitious reforms are not about ideology, or nationalisation versus privatisation – they’re about making the railway work for passengers. A railway that Yorkshire, and Britain, can be proud of.

Grant Shapps is the Transport Secretary and a Conservative MP.

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