Great British Railways body has been announced to run industry – but what about Scotland?

A major shake-up of Britain’s railways has been condemned by the Scottish Government for failing to respect devolved control of the network north of the Border.

The UK Government has announced a new body, Great British Railways, will take over responsibility for both tracks and trains in the biggest change since British Rail was privatised nearly 25 years ago.

It will take over track owner Network Rail – already part of the UK Government – and issue contracts to private firms to run trains, set most fares and timetables, and sell tickets.

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The body is expected to take over in 2023, with a new version of the classic British Rail double arrow symbol – still used for stations – as its logo.

LNER's cross-Border services would be among those controlled by Great British Railways. Picture: Crest PhotographyLNER's cross-Border services would be among those controlled by Great British Railways. Picture: Crest Photography
LNER's cross-Border services would be among those controlled by Great British Railways. Picture: Crest Photography

However, Scottish ministers are angry that their control over train operator ScotRail and spending by Network Rail in Scotland has not been confirmed in the plan.

It could provoke a fresh clash between newly-reappointed Transport Secretary Michael Matheson and his UK counterpart Grant Shapps, who Mr Matheson has already accused of trying to force Scotland's hand over transport priorities.

Mr Shapps said the new body would place the railways under a “single, accountable national leadership”.

He said: “This is not re-nationalisation, which this Government continues to believe failed the railways – rather, it is simplification.”

The shake-up was devised by Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams, left, and UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, rightThe shake-up was devised by Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams, left, and UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, right
The shake-up was devised by Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams, left, and UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, right

But the Scottish Government said: “There is no mention of Scotland in these details, and it is not clear how these proposals will respect the established and successful devolved responsibility for railways in Scotland.

“The white paper will affect Scotland's Railway [ScotRail and Network Rail Scotland], yet the Scottish Government has not been consulted on what is now published.

“Our view remains that a public sector controlled, aligned and better integrated railway will deliver for Scotland’s economy and its communities.

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"Full devolution of our railways is necessary to ensure that we can deliver the high performing and responsive services that Scotland’s communities and its economy deserves.

The British Rail logo is still used for stations. Picture: The ScotsmanThe British Rail logo is still used for stations. Picture: The Scotsman
The British Rail logo is still used for stations. Picture: The Scotsman

"We have made these points strongly and repeatedly to the UK Government, which has chosen to ignore the views of Scottish ministers who fund Scotland’s Railway.”

The plans announced by Mr Shapps are based on a long-delayed rail review by Royal Mail chairman and former British Airways chairman Keith Williams, which was triggered by the chaotic introduction of new timetables by several English train operators in 2018.

He said Great British Railways, created under the “Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail”, would “simplify the current mass of confusing tickets”.

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