A NEW public sector body will oversee British railways and simplify a system that is “too complicated,” according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Great British Railways (GBR) will own and manage rail infrastructure, issue contracts to private firms to run trains, set most fares and timetables, and sell tickets.

It will absorb Network Rail in a bid to end what the Department for Transport (DfT) branded a “blame-game system” between train and track operations when disruption occurs.

The move comes two years after the 2018 timetable fiasco and is based on the recommendations of a review of the industry carried out by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams following the chaotic introduction of new timetables in May 2018.

Newly Elected Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said the new system needed to include "a strong local voice in the way services are commissioned and run" rather than merely being a service run by Whitehall.

Announcing the plan yesterday, Mr Williams said: “Our plan is built around the passenger, with new contracts which prioritise excellent performance and better services, better value fares, and creating clear leadership and real accountability when things go wrong.”

Grant Shapps, believes it is a simplification of the railway service that people will “broadly welcome.”

He told Sky News: “It’s just too complicated.

“But I don’t want to go back to the days of British Rail either.

“We had declining passenger numbers and railway stations closed.

“This will be still with the involvement of the private sector, running the concessions, running the actual trains, but they get paid for running those trains on time, keeping them tidy and clean, and it will be a single organisation selling you the tickets and running the timetable.”

The plan was initially due to be published in autumn 2019 but was delayed by the general election and the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I am a great believer in rail, but for too long passengers have not had the level of service they deserve.

“By creating Great British Railways, and investing in the future of the network, this Government will deliver a rail system the country can be proud of.”

GBR is not expected to be established until 2023.

Its logo will be an updated version of British Rail’s double arrow.

It will be released at a later date.

Many reforms will be brought before the body is launched.

Flexible season tickets will be introduced, offering savings on certain routes for people who travel to work two or three times a week.

These will go on sale on June 21 for use seven days later.

There will also be a “significant rollout” of more pay-as-you-go, contactless and digital ticketing on smartphones, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers will welcome this move towards a more accountable and joined-up railway.

“Ultimately what they will care about is whether rail is the best option for them, if it is reliable, efficient and good value.”

Responding to the publication of the Government’s Plan for Rail, Tracy Brabin, the Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “Passengers in the North of England have long experienced the impact of disjointed rail services which have failed to address their needs.

“We must avoid swapping a fragmented railway for one run from Whitehall. I want to see a strong local voice in the way services are commissioned and run, which needs to be supported by the devolution of funding.

“I’m already moving forward with my commitment to bring bus services into public control and we need to ensure they are joined up with rail, cycling, walking and our new mass transit system to deliver for our communities.

“Alongside reform of the way rail services are run, we need significant investment to increase capacity on our network to deliver the regular and reliable service needed to attract people out of their cars and onto public transport as we tackle the climate emergency.”