New contracts will be drawn up for the running of the UK’s railways under a shake-up.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said new franchises would integrate operating teams across train services and infrastructure. Currently Network Rail is responsible for infrastructure and train operating companies run trains.
DfT said the move would result in the “closer alignment of incentives between the management of infrastructure and the operation of train services”.
The first rail operation to incorporate the new model will be East West Rail, which will be separate from Network Rail and deliver the design, construction and operation of a new link between Oxford and Cambridge, reinstating the ‘Varsity Line’ closed in the 60s.
The first of the new franchises will be let on the South Eastern and East Midlands lines in 2018.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “We want to see closer working across the industry, to resolve problems more quickly – putting the needs of the passenger first. When things go wrong, a lack of a joined up approach can make things much worse for the passenger.
“I intend to start bringing back together the operation of track and train on our railways. Our railway is much better run by one joined up team of people. They don’t have to work for the same company. They do have to work in the same team.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said it was important any changes did not compromise how goods were shipped or price freight off rail and back onto the road.
Chris MacRae, FTA’s head of rail freight policy, said: “Most freight flows across a Network Rail route boundary so it is important that it is not treated second class in any rail reform that more closely aligns passenger franchises with infrastructure delivery.”
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