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Britain's failing train network to be brought under state control, Boris Johnson says

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By Euronews
A train makes it's way towards Victoria railway station in central London, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014
A train makes it's way towards Victoria railway station in central London, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014   -   Copyright  Sang Tan/AP

The UK has announced a massive overhaul of its crumbling railway network that Boris Johnson’s government claims will improve life for the country’s long-suffering train passengers.

It will see the creation of a new public body, Great British Railways, that will set train timetables and ticket prices as well as managing railway infrastructure.

The reform is being described as the biggest shake-up in Britain since the privatisation of the network in the 1990s, bringing the railways back into government hands but with significant involvement of the private sector.

“I am a great believer in rail, but for too long passengers have not had the level of service they deserve,” Johnson said in a statement on Thursday.

“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.”

Due to the myriad franchises and private companies operating train services in the UK since privatisation, train passengers have for years had to deal with an opaque and confusing ticketing system and among the highest prices for train travel in Europe.

Regular commuters into the UK capital of London face season ticket prices of more than £5,000 per year for services that are late, oversubscribed, and regularly cancelled. London’s Tube network, meanwhile, has seen levels of service decline as prices rise year on year.

Meanwhile, tourists have long complained that when arriving at UK airports dozens of different routes with wildly different prices into London and other major cities. Often major train lines are out of service for weeks and months at a time as work is carried out to repair track.

As well as changes to ticketing and timetables, the reforms will prioritise electrification of train lines and encourage private sector investment in Britain’s railways, the government said.