All things must pass? Recent changes to competition and ownership in public transport in Great Britain.


John Preston

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, place - urban, mode - bus, mode - rail, organisation - regulation, organisation - contracting, organisation - competition


Bus, Competition, Ownership, Rail, Regulation


The publication of the National Bus Strategy in March and the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail in May 2021 suggests an end to the period of deregulation and privatisation that has dominated local buses in Great Britain since the mid-1980s and national rail since the mid-1990s.

This paper reviews the recent trends in the local bus and national rail industries in Great Britain, both pre- and post-Covid. The policy response in the two sectors seems to be searching for solutions that do not involve full blooded public control and ownership, at least in England. For local buses, emphasis is being placed on the development of Enhanced Partnerships between operators and Local Authorities. For national rail, the key organisational change is the establishment of Great British Railways to vertically integrate the planning of infrastructure and train services. Operations will remain vertically and horizontally separated but with franchising replaced by Passenger Service Contracts.

For both sectors, post-Covid, there will be an emphasis on demand and service recovery, with funding likely to be problematic. Future prospects will be considered, alongside the potential for further turns of the regulatory cycle, with respect to both competition and ownership.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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