Rail Reform Bill: What it means for you

What matters

What matters next

The Government has introduced the Rail Reform Bill, a major legislation that will overhaul the UK's rail network and affect the interests of businesses across various sectors. The Bill, which was presented to Parliament on 20th February 2024, will enable the creation of a new public body, Great British Railways, that will take charge of the planning, contracting and operation of rail services across the country. It also introduces a range of measures to increase competition, innovation and accountability in the rail sector. In this article, we will summarise the key points of the Bill and explain how they will impact your business.

Great British Railways

The Bill will establish a new public body, Great British Railways, that will replace the current fragmented system of rail franchising and infrastructure management. Great British Railways will be responsible for setting the overall strategy and vision for the rail network, awarding contracts to private operators, managing the rail infrastructure, setting and enforcing standards and collecting and distributing fares. The creation of a new, more unified, efficient, and customer-focused rail system will deliver better services, lower fares and more investment.

Having significant implications for the existing and potential rail operators, as well as the suppliers and contractors of the rail industry, the Bill will introduce a new contracting model, where Great British Railways will award contracts based on performance, quality and value for money, rather than revenue risk. The Bill will also enable more competition and innovation in the rail market, by allowing new entrants, open access operators and on-demand services, as well as creating a level playing field for the rail sector, by aligning the regulatory and taxation regimes with other modes of transport.

Passenger benefits

A wide range of benefits are promised by the Bill for passengers, including:

  • A simplified and flexible fare system that will offer more choice, value and convenience for travellers.
  • A new Passenger Charter that will set out the rights and responsibilities of passengers and operators and provide clear and consistent compensation for delays and cancellations.
  • A modern and accessible rail network that will offer more reliable, frequent and comfortable services, and support the transition to net-zero emissions.
  • A greater voice for passengers and communities in the decision-making process, through enhanced consultation and representation.

The Bill will also benefit businesses that rely on the rail network for their operations, customers and employees. By improving the connectivity, capacity and resilience of the rail network, the hope is that it will boost the productivity, competitiveness and growth of the UK economy. In addition to supporting the green recovery and the net-zero ambition of the government, by reducing the carbon footprint of the rail sector and encouraging modal shift from road to rail.

Next steps

The Bill is currently undergoing parliamentary scrutiny and is expected to receive royal assent by the end of 2024. The government plans to launch Great British Railways in 2025 and implement the reforms gradually over the next few years.

You can rest assured that we are closely monitoring the progress of the Bill and will provide regular updates and insights on its progress and impact on the rail industry and the wider economy. If you have any questions or concerns about the Bill and how it will affect your business, please do contact me or another member of our Rail team.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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