UK rail minister backs private partnerships

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris has outlined the government’s planned reforms of the sector and highlighted the importance of “engaging with commercial partners”.

Speaking at the seventh annual Rail industry Forum, Heaton-Harris said a revolution “cannot be delivered alone”, explaining that the reforms being planned by the government are intended to “preserve that entrepreneurial spirit and unlock more opportunities for innovation”.

The Department for Transport minister of State added that the government is making good progress in its changes to the franchising model, with six operators already moving to National Rail Contracts - the forerunners of the government’s planned future commercial model.

Meanwhile, he also announced that the competition to determine the headquarters of the new entity, Great British Railways, will open in the coming weeks. He explained that this competition would look to use the new headquarters to help regenerate a local area.

“We want applications from towns and cities with a rich railway heritage with clear plans on how they will energise the local private sector, customers and sector workforce, while also maximising value to the taxpayer,” Heaton-Harris explained.

It is understood that the Department for Transport is increasingly considering the regulated asset base (RAB) model as a way to encourage more private finance into transport infrastructure, including in the rail sector.

The government launched its Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail reform publication in May this year.