Politics

Big trains shake-up to see flexi tickets for commuters as state body takes over


Commuters returning to offices part-time will be able to buy flexible season tickets as part of a radical shake-up of the rail industry.

There will also be more options for pay-as-you-go, contactless and digital tickets on smartphones.

The changes coincide with plans to return the control of trains and track to the state under a new public body to be called Great British Railways.

The body will own and manage infrastructure, issue contracts to run trains, and set most fares and timetables.

It will also sell tickets. GBR will absorb Network Rail in a bid to end the current “blame-game system” between train and track operators when disruption occurs.

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The changes are based on recommendations from former BA chief executive Keith Williams
The changes are based on recommendations from former BA chief executive Keith Williams

The changes are based on recommendations from former BA chief executive Keith Williams, who carried out a review of rail following the chaotic introduction of new timetables in May 2018.

The plan was due to be published in autumn 2019 but was delayed by the general election and the coronavirus pandemic.

GBR, which will use a new version of British Rail’s double arrow as its logo, is expected to be established in 2023.

But the Government faces claims that it has re-announced or re-committed to major rail projects in the North more than 60 times in seven years without a spade yet being dug into the ground.



Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon questioned the report
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon questioned the report

Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: “Nearly three years after it was commissioned, this report raises more questions than it answers.

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“With fare hikes, £1billion cuts to Network Rail and broken promises to communities across the country, it’s yet another example of ministers talking a good game, with very little substance.

“A lack of proper detail on flexible tickets and whether it will make travel cheaper for the average commuter renders it meaningless for millions and completely fails to meet the scale of challenge required to encourage people back on to the rail network.”



1948-2001. Double-arrow logo was iconic
1948-2001. Double-arrow logo was iconic


2002-2023. Stylised rail tracks took over
2002-2023. Stylised rail tracks took over

Rail franchises effectively ended when the Government took over the financial liabilities of operators in March 2020.

It was done to keep services running amid the collapse in demand caused by the pandemic, at a cost of £10billion.

The emergency agreements will be replaced by passenger service contracts.



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Under the plan, GBR will incentivise operators to run high-quality services and increase passenger numbers.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said passengers would welcome “a more accountable and joined-up railway”.

He added: “This is a positive step towards much-needed reform of how rail tickets are sold.

“We welcome steps to simplify ticketing.

“We need tickets that are more likely to match how we might live and travel in future.”





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