The Williams-Shapps Review – the birth of the Great British Railways!

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On 20 May 2021, the Government published the White Paper, “Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail” which sets out the its plan for the revolution of the railway.

The new Public Body, Great British Railways, will run and plan the rail network, own the infrastructure and receive the revenue. The plan is to bring the Railway under single leadership with a new brand and identity with a remit to focus on value for passengers, setting clear accountabilities and strategic direction for the next 30 years.

What will happen to current projects?

Some railway commentators have expressed concern that current projects on renewals or enhancements of the railway will be halted pending further clarity on procurement and delivery. The Government appears to agree that this would be a “short sighted” approach.

New way of working with the Private Sector?

The Government has created Passenger Service Contracts which will replace franchising, bringing in a new focus on reliability, performance and efficiency. The review tells us that there will be opportunities for innovators, suppliers (including small and local partners) created through streamlined contracts and contestability.

Here at Buckles, we welcome the move to open up more opportunities to Rail SMEs who we often find ‘caught up’ in bureaucracy and red tape. We encourage the government to make procurement opportunities visible to SMEs and create greater, more accessible opportunities for rail innovators to make the Great British Railway the best it can be.

The Government is due to announce further major projects in the Midlands and the North, including electrification schemes.