Biggest rail shake-up for 25 years announced with new Great British Railways brand

The government is promising a "new era for passengers" with the launch of a new public body, more pay-as-you-go travel and flexible season tickets.

The Manc The Manc - 20th May 2021

Britain’s railways are set for the biggest shake-up in quarter of a century as the government prepares to bring travel under state control.

A newly-launched public body, Great British Railways (GBR), will integrate the railways, own the infrastructure, collect fare revenue, run and plan the network, and set most fares and timetables.

However, private operators will continue to run most trains.

GBR will provide new Pay As You Go and flexible season tickets in an attempt to simplify the current travel ticketing system.

A new national flexi season ticket will be on sale from June 21, with potential savings of “hundreds of pounds a year” for 2 and 3 day-a-week commuters.


The government vowed affordable walk-on fares and season ticket prices will be protected during the major reshuffle.

New public body GBR will integrate the railways – but private operators will still run most services / Image: David Dixon

Grant Shapps Transport Secretary, who is spearheading the changes, said that GBR would bring an end to “years of fragmentation, confusion and over-complication” in UK rail travel.


He stated: “Great British Railways marks a new era in the history of our railways. It will become a single familiar brand with a bold new vision for passengers – of punctual services, simpler tickets and a modern and green railway that meets the needs of the nation.”

Shapps clarified: “This is not renationalisation, which failed the railways, rather it is simplification.

“While Great British Railways acts as the guiding mind to coordinate the whole network, our plan will see greater involvement of the private sector – private companies will be contracted to run the trains, with stronger competition to run services.”


GBR is the product of the The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail – a strategy for modern transport underpinned by new contracts that “prioritise punctual and reliable services [and] the rapid delivery of a ticketing revolution”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said GBR would “deliver a rail system the country can be proud of”.

He added: “For too long passengers have not had the level of service they deserve.”

Andy Bagnall, the director general of the Rail Delivery Group, said the changes would allow “operators to put their customers at the absolute forefront of decision-making”.

He stated: “Getting the detail right will be crucial to ensuring that the white paper fulfils its potential to improve journeys, offer independent oversight and clear accountability, and create a new set of fares which are simpler and more value for money.”

Featured image: DfT / Flickr