BBC: A major overhaul of the way Britain’s railways are managed has been delayed, Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has announced.
The plan – including the creation of a new public body, Great British Railways (GBR) – will not be brought before Parliament until May at the earliest.
She admitted this meant GBR was unlikely to be fully in place by early 2024, as had been hoped.
Six cities and towns have been shortlisted for GBR’s headquarters.
A decision on the winner – from Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and York – is still expected to be made in the coming weeks.
A GBR transition team is in place, but legislation is necessary for the organisation to come into being.
Ms Trevelyan said work was being done on which changes could be achieved without legislation, after her department “lost the opportunity” to bring forward the Transport Bill in this session of Parliament.
She said she expected “the hiatus will be short”, adding that the legislation should follow in the next session of Parliament, from next May.
Ms Trevelyan told MPs on the Transport Select Committee the decision was nothing to do with the government U-turning on its mini-budget.
“The challenges of things like the energy legislation we’ve got to bring in and various others has meant that we have lost the opportunity to have that [the Bill] in this third session,” she said.
Announced by former Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in May 2021, plans for Great British Railways were billed as the biggest shake-up in decades.
Mr Shapps said the new agency would replace the “fragmented” railway system.
It would be state-owned, and would set timetables and prices, sell tickets in England, and manage rail infrastructure.
It would also issue contracts to private operators to run trains.
Asked if it was her intention to fully implement the plan set out last year, Ms Trevelyan said: “Because we can’t bring in this big, all-encompassing piece of legislation immediately, we’re going to take the opportunity to break it down into its constituent parts and work out how we can drive forward some of that modernisation.”
Ms Trevelyan added that although a “big” Transport Bill would not happen in this session of Parliament, her department was pushing for “a narrow bill” around technologies like e-scooters.
Railway Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan said there was “a real concern that this delay will lead to a hiatus in work, hitting confidence and certainty in what are already difficult economic circumstances”.
He said it added to a “lack of clarity” rail suppliers were already feeling “given there is also uncertainty over long-term funding, enhancement schemes and major rail projects too”.