Chris Grayling set to strip Network Rail of its dominance over rail maintenance

 
Rebecca Smith
Network Rail has warned of major works at London stations over the festive period
Network Rail has warned of major works at London stations over the festive period (Source: Getty)

Chris Grayling is set to to hand over power of Britain's train tracks to operators in a speech next week.

The transport secretary wants take away the state-owned Network Rail's sole control of the nation's rail infrastructure and share it with private firms in what would mark a huge change in how Britain's rail network is operated.

Track maintenance would be undertaken by Virgin, ScotRail, Southern and others for the first time.

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According to the Telegraph, Grayling will set out the proposal in a speech at the Policy Exchange on Tuesday and wants to make the changes to clamp down on delays, with firms incentivised to complete repairs more quickly.

Last month it was revealed that the transport secretary was mulling over his options, but wanted to end the state-owned firm's monopoly on repair and upgrade to tracks and signalling, and had commanded officials to investigate how to introduce competition.

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Westminster insiders described the scheme as “bringing train and track closer together”.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: "I can only confirm Chris Grayling is making a speech on Tuesday".

Control was given to Network Rail back in 2002 after a takeover of the private company Railtrack, which had gone into administration. The trains travelling across the network are run by separate firms and they rely on Network Rail for repair work. Network Rail has paid £316m in penalties for planned engineering works over the past year.

It was announced yesterday that rail fares will be increased by an average of 2.3 per cent from January next year.

And while that announcement went down as well as you'd expect with the nation's commuters, the government also revealed Southern rail season ticket holders will be offered a refund equivalent to a month's travel after suffering months of disruption and ongoing industrial action.

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