British Rail is back. But will it be Great? The outcome of the Williams-Shapps Review was announced yesterday, introducing a new brand name “Great British Rail” and a national contracts body to let contracts for running rail routes to private companies. In reality the final outcome had been widely predicted. With a return to the discredited franchising ruled out, and full re-nationalisation highly unlikely on political grounds, a system of service contracts with private operators, similar to that operated by TfL in London, seemed the only way forward. And now it’s official. But will it deliver? First signs are not encouraging, with the hourly TPE services at Morpeth, the result of years of campaigning and lobbying from SENRUG, looking as if it is being squeezed out, we suspect to make way for yet more non-stop LNERs. Levelling up is not just about money. It’s about thinking. Running fast trains from London to Edinburgh might do quite a bit for the London economy, but what Northumberland needs is a semi-fast service connecting its key market towns, and hourly connectivity to strategic northern cities such as Leeds and Manchester, along with a local service stopping at all stations. Let’s hope Transport for the North and Transport North East can step forward and ensure these SENRUG campaign aspirations are delivered. Note: I have been asked to write an article on the Williams-Shapps Plan, primarily for colleagues in the European Passenger Federation, for which I am Railfuture’s delegate. This article, which is subjective and represents my personal view and not a formal position from SENRUG, can be viewed here (and gives a link both to the government White Paper itself and Railfuture’s formal and very thorough response to it at the bottom) can be seen here. You are welcome to give your feedback by commenting on this blog post.