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Queen’s Speech: New Railway Body For UK Announced

3 min

Credit: Tejvan Pettinger, Flickr
The Queen’s Speech today (10 May) announced the Transport Bill, which includes plans to improve the railway industry. Quadrant Transport looks at the Transport Bill, the new railway body announced, and how it will affect the industry.

Overseeing Britain’s railways, the creation of a new public sector body has been included in the Queen’s Speech.

Great British Railways (GBR) is said to simplify the rail network and improve services for passengers. It will absorb the state-owned infrastructure management company Network Rail and take on many functions from the Department for Transport.

The Biggest Change in 25 Years is the GBR

One way in which GBR will simplify the rail network is by introducing new flexible season tickets and a significant roll-out of more convenient Pay As You Go, contactless and digital ticketing on smartphones.

A new GBR website will sell tickets, with a single compensation system for operators in England providing a simple system for passengers to access information and apply for refunds.

When it comes to the private sector, there will remain a substantial and often greater role. GBR will contact private partners to operate most trains to the timetables and fares.

The new Passenger Service Contracts will include strong incentives for operators to run high-quality services and increase passenger numbers.

“Her Majesty’s Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovation. Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers.”

Better Deals For Seafarers

Measures are also going to be brought in that protect the rights of ferry workers, and secure powers to build and operate the next stage of HS2.

This comes after P&O sacked almost 800 members of staff with immediate effect back in March, terminating contracts of employees and replacing them with agency workers.

Due to vessels not being based in a particular country, they are not subject to national laws such as the minimum wage. P&O had been planning on paying agency workers as little as £1.80 an hour for their employment.

Ministers had warned P&O at the time to reverse its decision to hire agency staff on such little pay or they would face being hit with new legislation.

Now, in the Queen’s Speech, the UK Government has unveiled its Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill, which will be debated and voted on in Parliament in the months ahead. Protecting seafarers working aboard vessels visiting UK ports is its main aim.

Ferry services that do not pay an equivalent to the National Minimum Wage to seafarers while in UK waters now could be refused access by ports.

Seafarers working on domestic ferry services and on offshore support vessels serving oil and gas installations in the UK continental shelf have already seen ministers apply the National Minimum Wage.

The Transport Bill is Aimed at Enabling Innovation

Transport of the future means promoting greener, faster, and more innovative travel. At the same time, it is essential that new regulations are brought in to keep UK streets safe.

As well as making the UK a hub of innovation with a world-leading electric vehicle charging network, measures have been brought in relating to private e-scooters, which are currently banned from use on public roads and pavements.

Also featured is legislation to allow self-driving and remotely operated vehicles and vessels. With support being given to the rollout of more electric vehicle charge points as part of the transition from petrol and diesel models.