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Minister admits rail reform legislation ‘unlikely’ before general election

Minister admits rail reform legislation ‘unlikely’ before general election

Transport secretary Mark Harper said it is “unlikely” that legislation to overhaul Britain’s railways will be passed before the next general election.

The establishment of Great British Railways (GBR), first proposed in May 2021, was included in a draft Rail Reform Bill in last week’s King’s Speech.

But Mr Harper does not expect legislation to be passed during the current parliamentary session, ahead of a general election expected to take place next year.

The cabinet minister told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “I think it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to proceed to full legislation this session.”

He said this is because “we’re not going to have time”, but also stressed the importance of the bill being scrutinised.

Contributions from committee members and other relevant parties “will inevitably produce improvements” which will get the bill “into as good a shape as possible” to ease its passage through Parliament, he said.

Tory MP Iain Stewart, who chairs the committee, put it to Mr Harper that the legislation is “fairly simple”, adding: “There has already been a consultation on it. What else are you hoping to achieve by further scrutiny?”

Mr Harper said: “Well, given the debate over it, I don’t think it is (simple).

“I think people’s views about it are not that straightforward.

“There’s still quite a bit of difference of opinion about what people are trying to achieve with the legislation and there are different views from different parts of the industry.”

Plans for GBR involve it carrying out functions such as awarding operating contracts to train companies and managing rail infrastructure.

Its creation was announced by then-transport secretary Grant Shapps in a White Paper in May 2021.

The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail was based on the recommendations of a review, carried out by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams, established in September 2018.

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