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Great British Railways plan delayed as government scraps transport bill

The transport bill promised to “improve transport across the United Kingdom" and “improve reliability for passengers”

Anne-Marie Trevelyan has been transport secretary for around six weeks, having replaced Grant Shapps. Image: Parliament TV

The new transport secretary has scrapped legislation that would have brought the railways under the new, state-owned Great British Railways.

Great British Railways was a flagship policy of former transport secretary Grant Shapps, which would have created a state-owned body described as going some way to renationalising Britain’s railways in 2024. It is unclear whether this will still go ahead.

The transport bill had been promised as part of the government’s response to the illegal sacking of 800 seafarers by P&O Ferries in March.

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“If we have a smaller bill we have a better chance of getting that squeezed in by May,” said Anne-Marie Trevelyan when asked to confirm the schedule for the transport bill by the government’s transport committee.

“Secretary of state you’ve just let us know the transport bill has been canned, so maybe in the department you’ll have some spare capacity” replied committee chair and Tory MP Huw Merriman, who went on to ask how the department planned to use that spare capacity to amend, repeal or replace the 424 pieces of EU law that are also set to go. 

Announced in May’s Queen’s Speech, the transport bill promised to “improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovations” as well as to “modernise rail services” and improve reliability for passengers.

“There is chaos at the heart of every aspect of government policy including its plans for transport,” RMT leader Mick Lynch told the Big Issue in response to news GBR would not go ahead in the next parliamentary session.  

Referring to the government’s plans to impose minimum service levels during rail strikes to avoid a compete shutdown of transport links, Lynch said: “The government can find time to introduce legislation to draconian new legislation to attack rail workers rights but cannot find the time to introduce laws that protect passenger rights, train services and jobs.”

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Trevelyan said that instead of the transport bill, a narrower “future of transport technologies bill” would address electric vehicle chargers, e-scooters and e-bikes. 

She confirmed that revised plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail will be released in “a few weeks”, and that the department would continue to “look holistically” at the HS2 eastern leg from Birmingham to Leeds.

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