British Railways – explanation from Wikipedia – 19.06.22

Given the serious impact on the UK resulting from the proposed strike by Railway workers, we have decided to publish these extracts from Wikipedia as there is a lack of understanding as to how the railways are managed in the UK.

Network Rail Limited is the owner (via its subsidiary Network Rail Infrastructure Limited, which was known as Railtrack plc before 2002) and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain.[5] Network Rail is an "arm's length" public body of the Department for Transport with no shareholders, which reinvests its income in the railways.

Network Rail's main customers are the private train operating companies (TOCs), responsible for passenger transport, and freight operating companies (FOCs), who provide train services on the infrastructure that the company owns and maintains. Since 1 September 2014, Network Rail has been classified as a "public sector body".[6][7]

To cope with fast-increasing passenger numbers, (as of 2021) Network Rail has been undertaking a £38 billion programme of upgrades to the network, including Crossrail, electrification of lines and upgrading Thameslink.

In May 2021, the Government announced its intent to replace Network Rail in 2023 with a new public body called Great British Railways.[8]

Britain's railway system was built by private companies, but it was nationalised by the Transport Act 1947 and run by British Railways until re-privatisation which was begun in 1994 and completed in 1997. Infrastructure, passenger and freight services were separated at that time. Between 1994 and 2002 the infrastructure was owned and operated by Railtrack.[citation needed]

The Hatfield train crash on 17 October 2000 was a defining moment in the collapse of Railtrack.[9] The immediate major repairs undertaken across the whole British railway network were estimated to have cost in the order of £580 million and Railtrack had no idea how many more 'Hatfields' were waiting to happen because it had lost considerable in-house engineering skill following the sale or closure of many of the engineering and maintenance functions of British Rail to external companies; nor did the company have any way of assessing the consequence of the speed restrictions it was ordering, which all but brought the railway network to a standstill.[10]

The costs of modernising the West Coast Main Line were also spiralling.[11] In 2001, Railtrack announced that, despite making a pre-tax profit before exceptional expenses of £199m, the £733m of costs and compensation paid out over the Hatfield crash had plunged Railtrack from profit into a loss of £534m,[12] and it approached the government for funding, which it then used to pay a £137m dividend to its shareholders in May 2001.[13]

Network Rail Ltd. took over control by buying Railtrack plc, which was in "railway administration", from Railtrack Group plc for £500 million; Railtrack plc was then renamed and reconstituted as Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd. The purchase was completed on 3 October 2002.[14] The former company had thus never ceased to exist but continued under another name: for this reason Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd was the defendant in later prosecutions in respect of events which had occurred in the days of Railtrack.[citation needed]

Train operating company

A train operating company (TOC) is a business operating passenger trains on the railway system of Great Britain under the collective National Rail brand. TOCs have existed since the privatisation of the network under the Railways Act 1993.

There are two types of TOC: most hold franchises let by the Department for Transport through a tendering system, to operate services on certain routes for a specified duration, while a small number of open-access operators hold licences to provide supplementary services on chosen routes. These operators can run services for the duration of the licence validity.

The franchised operators have changed considerably since privatisation: previous franchises have been divided, merged, re-let to new operators, or renamed. Some operators have been taken over by a government-owned operator of last resort, due either to failing expectations or to events on the rail system as a whole.

The term is also sometimes used to describe companies operating passenger or freight rail services over tracks owned by another company or a national network owner.


Franchises were initially let by the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF). This was in turn replaced by the Strategic Rail Authority, which has since been abolished. For England, franchising is now the responsibility of the Department for Transport in the majority of cases.

In Scotland, it is the responsibility of Transport Scotland. In Wales, since 2017, the responsibility for the specification and procurement of the Wales & Borders franchise belongs to Transport for Wales.[1] In two parts of England, local government agencies are responsible: in Merseyside, the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive lets the Merseyrail franchise, while in London, Transport for London oversees the new London Overground and Crossrail concessions.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) (formerly the Association of Train Operating Companies) provides a commonality for the TOCs and provides some centralised co-ordination. Its activities include the provision of a national timetable and online journey planner facility, and the operation of the various Railcard discount schemes. Eurostar is also a member of the RDG, though it is not itself a TOC.

The railway network in Northern Ireland is managed differently from the rest of the UK. The sole company in Northern Ireland that operates trains is NI Railways, who are a subsidiary of Translink, the publicly owned transport corporation, which also runs the Metro buses in Belfast and Ulsterbus coaches around the country. NIR is not a TOC under the terms of the Railways Act 1993, which only applies to Great Britain. The cross-border service Enterprise (Belfast–Dublin) is jointly operated with Iarnród Éireann, the publicly owned national railway company of the Republic of Ireland.

Here are the links from which these extracts have been copied:

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British Railways – explanation from Wikipedia – 19.06.22
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The Opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1825 by J.R. Brown (Brown_via_Getty_Images)

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