Will rail reforms make my train on time and my ticket cheaper?

A major overhaul of Britain’s railways has been announced, but what will it mean for passengers?

Here the PA news agency answers key questions about the reforms.

Train tickets
There have been long-term complaints about the cost of rail travel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

– In a nutshell, what is going on?

The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail involves a new public body called Great British Railways (GBR) taking over responsibility for managing infrastructure, issuing contracts to train operators, setting fares and selling tickets.

– How were trains run before the pandemic?

Most services were run by private firms awarded franchises by the Government.

– Did that work?

Passenger numbers have soared since train operation was privatised in the mid-1990s, but there have been long-term complaints about punctuality and the cost of fares.

– What will change under the new system?

GBR will award contracts to private firms to run trains, with incentives based on performance and passenger numbers.

Network Rail will be absorbed by GBR, meaning the operation of train and track will be brought together.

Former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams
Former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams led a review of Britain’s railways (Nick Morrish/British Airways/PA)

– Will that make my train run on time?

The Government believes scrapping the franchise system will lead to operators being more focused on improving services.

The new concession model is similar to the one successfully used by Transport for London for its London Overground and Docklands Light Railway networks.

Ministers also hope there will be a smoother link in the management of train and track.

– Will fares go down?

There has been no commitment for an overall reduction in fares.

Instead, the Government has pledged to simplify the fares system and offer digital ticketing and more flexibility.

– What about part-time commuters?

New flexible season tickets will be introduced from June 21, which can be used for travel on any eight days in a 28-day period.

Some passengers who commute two or three days per week will save hundreds of pounds a year through the new offer compared with the cheapest alternatives such as daily tickets or annual passes, according to the Department for Transport.

Those travelling three times per week would need to buy a new ticket nearly every three weeks, but would still save money depending on their route.

– What if I only commute one day a week?

You will be better off buying daily tickets.

– How about four days a week?

An annual season ticket is likely to continue to be your cheapest option.

– How do I get one of these flexible tickets?

Passengers will be able to access the paperless ticket on smartcards or mobile phones.

– Why did the Government decide reforms were needed?

The chaotic introduction of new timetables in May 2018 led to former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams being commissioned to carry out a wide-ranging review of the railways.

– Why has it taken so long for anything to happen?

A plan based on his recommendations was due to be published in autumn 2019.

Its delay was attributed to the general election of December 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic.

– What has been the response to the reforms?

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus said passengers will “welcome this move towards a more accountable and joined up railway”.

But the announcement was criticised by trade unions, with the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association describing it as “an attempt merely to paper over the cracks”.