Future of Great British Railways in doubt as Government set to delay legislation

The formation of Great British Railways (GBR) could be scrapped – just weeks after Derby was named as the new headquarters of the body.

GBR was to be a semi-independent body in charge of a restructured railway, replacing Network Rail and parts of the Department for Transport (DfT). It would act as a “guiding mind” for rolling stock and infrastructure.

In October 2021, the Government opened a competition to find a location for the GBR headquarters, with historical ties to the railways and good train connectivity being among the selection criteria.

In March, it was revealed that Derby had won the race to become home to some of the most senior rail executives in the country, who would be in charge of Britain’s rail network.

However, reports in The Times yesterday evening (May 18) suggest that the government has “quietly scrapped” plans for GBR and that it won’t feature in the King’s Speech because it is way down Rishi Sunak’s priority list, who, The Times says, doesn’t consider the railways important enough to be given time in the final parliamentary session before a General Election.

The move will also be seen as a further snub from Sunak to his former boss Boris Johnson, who was behind the formation of GBR, and described it as “the biggest shake-up of the railways since privatisation”.

The news will come as a blow to Derby, which had fought off stiff competition from five other cities to land the title, including Birmingham, Crewe, Doncaster, Newcastle and York.

The Times says its sources believe a shadow GBR will now be created, which will only have a fraction of the powers of Johnson’s original blueprint.

The Department for Transport told The Times it was committed to GBR and said legislation would be brought forward “when parliamentary time allows”.

Tory MP Pauline Latham, whose Mid Derbyshire constituency was chosen as the new body’s home, said: “I would be incredibly disappointed if it [was] ditched, having not only gone through the competition but won it hands down. I will fight with ministers and the secretary of state to have the legislation passed, even if that requires a delegation of us to go and see Sunak.

“We promised it, and delivering it won’t be complicated. I think the naysayers are the people who don’t want to relinquish power but we need it. The current system, not least franchising and ticketing, is in dire need of reform.”

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