A consortium of rail business leaders has called on the government to finally bring forward promised rail reform legislation and the establishment of Great British Railways (GBR) in an open letter to the prime minister. 

Over 60 leaders have signed the letter which urges for the legislation, first promised after the publication of reform proposals in 2021, to be brought forward within the next parliamentary session to address uncertainty over the future of the UK rail industry. 

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), expressed that RIA members were asking the government to simply move forward with its own legislation. 

Caplan said: “Getting on with rail reform will help provide the certainty rail businesses need to invest, take on staff and develop their business plans, ultimately benefiting passenger and freight customers and resulting in better value-for-money for taxpayers.”

Caplan added that failure to enact the promised legislation before the next general election could risk a “hiatus in rail investment”. 

GBR, which will be based in Derby following a recent announcement, is the successor to Network Rail as operator of the UK’s rail infrastructure and will also be the body responsible for contracting passenger services, setting fares and collecting fare revenue and setting timetables.

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GBR’s creation is part of the recommendations made by the Williams-Shapps Rail Review report published in May 2021. 

Whilst the transport bill that would affirm the body’s powers and scope has yet to be brought to parliament, Transport Secretary Mark Harper recently promised that the government would respond to the consultation on the GBR’s powers by the summer of 2023. 

In the open letter, which is also addressed to Harper and HS2 Minister Huw Merriman, the industry leaders praise Harper’s vision for the industry and the GBR legislation but say that private sector businesses need certainty on the future structure and responsibilities of rail in the UK. 

The letter says: “We appreciate that there are many pressures on the Parliamentary timetable but we urge you to place rail reform front and centre of your programme. 

“Legislation is needed as soon as possible to bring costs and revenues together in one place, something which is essential to the success of any organisation.” 

The full letter and list of signatories can be read on the RIA website