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Changing track: Our proposals for a more customer focussed, joined-up and accountable railway

Change track

The railway plays a vital part of Britain’s growth and prosperity, but everyone agrees the way the railway operates today needs to change so that it can deliver far more in the future.

That’s why Britain’s rail companies have developed proposals for a radical alternative to the current franchising system. A New Partnership Railway would better join up the industry, strengthen accountability and improve services for passengers – underpinned by easier, better value fares for all. 

Our proposals follow months of conversations with passengers, businesses and communities across Britain.

We are calling time on short term fixes and setting out the generational system upgrade the country expects.

Big Changes

With our proposals the current franchising system would be replaced with different types of services designed to suit the needs of different areas and different passengers.

Accountability would be strengthened by creating a new independent national organising body to co-ordinate the whole industry, helping to end the blame game when things go wrong and giving penalties where rail companies fall short.

And we want the new system to be underpinned by an easier to use, better value fares system.

rail companies

Join the discussion

With the railway on the cusp of major reform, rail companies are calling for big changes to the system to create a more customer-focussed, joined-up and accountable railway.

Our proposals could fundamentally change how people use and view rail, but what big changes do you want to see to your railway?

Principles for change

Our proposals are based on six principles for change that we think need to be met to deliver the right priorities for a modern railway.

Put customers at the heart

Create clear and strengthened accountability

Deliver value for money for passengers and taxpayers

Drive economic growth across the country

Strengthen communities by being more responsive to their needs

Inspire the people who work in rail by providing fulfilling careers

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Rail must support the wider economy and social outcomes.
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Vernon Everitt,
Managing Director, Customers, Communication and Technology, Transport for London

changing track

Changing track

Our proposals would replace the current franchising system with public service contracts that could see TfL-style networks on some mass-commuter routes, more choice and competition for passengers on some long-distance routes, and services running on other routes with tough outcome-based targets and incentives.

These contracts would be overseen by a new, independent organising acting as the glue that binds the railway together. Sitting outside day-to-day politics, the organising body would drive up accountability and standards, making it clear where the buck stops.

We want the new system to be underpinned by an easier to use, better value range of fares, made possible by updating decades old regulations that have led to a complex and confusing system. Read our Easier Fares for All proposals to find out more.

A fully reformed fares system would also enable greater local control over fares in devolved areas and better integration of rail fares with those for other modes of transport.

Change track
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The new fares system needs to be flexible, adapting to new working patterns, people working part-time, commuting to different locations on different days and so on.
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Adam Marshall,
Director General, British Chambers of Commerce

rail companies

Our eight-point plan

We propose a clear, eight-point plan to deliver this new system for our customers and the communities we serve:


Deliver easier fares for all - updating decades of regulation to enable a fares system which is much easier for passengers to use and better value for money, backed up by an industry ‘best fare guarantee’.


Put a new independent organising body in charge of the whole industry – to remove politics from the running of the railway as far as possible, join up decisions, and hold the industry to account with penalties where it falls short.


Introduce responsive, customer focussed ‘public service contracts’, replacing the current franchising system - These would be made up of TfL-style single branded ‘concessions’ or new ‘customer outcome-based’ contracts, in place of today’s tightly specified inputs-based model, which would better incentivise the private sector to innovate to improve, while only rewarding good performance.


Give customers more choice of operators on some long-distance routes - having more rail companies competing for passengers, offered a range of different services based on what they want. This means rail companies would have to adapt to passenger needs to keep their business.


Make sure track and train are all working to the same customer-focussed goals - introducing a single thread of consistent targets and incentives running through the whole industry, from CEOs to frontline teams and between the track and the train, so that all parts of the railway pull together – ending the blame game.


Bring decisions about local services closer to home - so that, where appropriate, such as in larger city regions which serve commuter markets, customers would benefit from local transport bodies being given more power to design and specify local services.


Enhance freight’s central role in delivering for Britain’s economy – by developing a clear national framework to put freight in to the core of business, environmental, and long-term strategic government policy making.


Invest in our people to deliver positive long-term change for our customers – with a new approach to working with the unions, governments and the industry which provides our people with the skills, resources and rewards they need to deliver generational change in the railway.

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Now is a time for fundamental change, not tinkering around the edges or, worse, inaction. We need to configure the railway around its customers and set it up for a successful future.
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Paul Plummer,
CEO, Rail Delivery Group

changing track

It's time to change

We know we may not always have got everything right, but the time to make the changes which will secure the future of the railway is now. It is time to deliver the world-class service the public demands and deserves to achieve real, lasting change.

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