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  1. ITV Report

Network Rail to lose complete control of tracks in government shake-up

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sally Lockwood

Network Rail could lose complete control of England's railway tracks under plans to be set out by the Government.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling believes Network Rail, which is publicly owned, should share the responsibility with private train operating companies.

Network Rail welcomed the plans, saying they would strengthen its existing alliances with operators.

In a speech on Tuesday Mr Grayling said that the relationship between the tracks and the trains needs to change because the lack of a coordinated approach can "make things much worse" when disruption occurs.

"In my experience, passengers don't understand the division between the two. They just want someone to be in charge. They want their train to work. I agree with them.

"I intend to start bringing back together the operation of track and train on our railways...I believe it will mean they run better on a day-to-day basis...our railway is much better-run by one joined-up team of people.

"They don't have to work for the same company. They do have to work in the same team."

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will outline the plan on Tuesday. Credit: PA

New franchises due to be let on the South Eastern and East Midlands routes in 2018 will have integrated operating teams overseeing both train services and infrastructure.

Similar action could be taken for other contract renewals over the coming years.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: "We strongly welcome these plans to bring more joined-up working within the industry."

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said the Government was "dragging the railways back to the failed and lethal Railtrack model of the private sector running infrastructure".

He added: "There is no question at all that this plan represents the piecemeal privatisation of Network Rail which, over a period of time, will see both operations and track run by the same bunch of companies who have failed so abysmally over the past two decades."

Network Rail took over responsibility for infrastructure from Railtrack in 2002 after a series of fatal accidents, such as at Hatfield and Potters Bar.

A new organisation, separate to Network Rail and named East West Rail, will be created to secure private sector investment to design, build and operate a route between Oxford and Cambridge. The western section of the line could be opened by 2024 and would cut journey times between Oxford and Bedford from two hours 20 minutes to just one hour one minute.