Railways Act 1993

The Railways Act 1993 (c 43) was introduced by John Major's Conservative government and passed on 5 November 1993. It provided for the restructuring of the British Railways Board (BRB), the public corporation that owned and operated the national railway system. A few residual responsibilities of the BRB remained with BRB (Residuary) Ltd.

Railways Act 1993
Long titleAn Act to provide for the appointment and functions of a Rail Regulator and a Director of Passenger Rail Franchising and of users' consultative committees for the railway industry and for certain ferry services; to make new provision with respect to the provision of railway services and the persons by whom they are to be provided or who are to secure their provision; to make provision for and in connection with the grant and acquisition of rights over, and the disposal or other transfer and vesting of, any property, rights or liabilities by means of which railway services are, or are to be, provided; to amend the functions of the British Railways Board; to make provision with respect to the safety of railways and the protection of railway employees and members of the public from personal injury and other risks arising from the construction or operation of railways; to make further provision with respect to transport police; to make provision with respect to certain railway pension schemes; to make provision for and in connection with the payment of grants and subsidies in connection with railways and in connection with the provision of facilities for freight haulage by inland waterway; to make provision in relation to tramways and other guided transport systems; and for connected purposes.
Citation1993 Chapter 43
Territorial extentEngland and Wales, Scotland
Royal assent5 November 1993
Commencement1 January 1994
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended


While the administration of Margaret Thatcher had not done so, the Major government were determined to privatise British Rail. Railways in the 18th and 19th Centuries had originally been built and run with private capital, but subsidised heavily by Parliament and communities who gave land for building through compulsory purchase. Rail was increasingly regulated, for instance under the Railways Act 1921, but was finally nationalised by the Transport Act 1947. Calls for reform of the nationalised system combined with people who believed only the private sector could run rail to ensure better service for passengers at cheaper cost. This led to the Railways Act 1993.


The legislation created a new regulatory regime for the railways, with the establishment of the Rail Regulator (dealing with the monopoly and dominant elements of the industry, principally Railtrack (now Network Rail)) and the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising, whose role was to sell passenger rail franchises to the private sector. The Director of Passenger Rail Franchising was replaced in 2001 by the Strategic Rail Authority. When the SRA was abolished in 2006 franchising were taken over by the Secretary of State for Transport. The statutory position of Rail Regulator was abolished in July 2004 and his functions were taken over by the Office of Rail Regulation.


The legislation enabled the Secretary of State for Transport John MacGregor to transfer separated parts of the railway to the private sector. Passenger rail services were franchised to private companies including Virgin Rail Group, Connex (later known as Veolia Transport) and the coach companies Stagecoach and National Express, and the national railway track and signalling company Railtrack was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1996. British Rail's track maintenance and renewal operations were sold to private companies, with contracts to provide infrastructure services to Railtrack. The three rolling stock leasing companies or ROSCOs, owners of the passenger rolling stock, were sold to management buyout teams.


Railtrack collapsed in highly controversial circumstances in October 2001, and in October 2002 the company emerged from railway administration, a special state of insolvency for railway companies created by the Railways Act 1993, as Network Rail. Some commentators regard the creation of Network Rail and its taking maintenance in-house as the beginning of the reversal of rail privatisation.


The legislation has been amended several times, most significantly by the Transport Act 2000, the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 and the Railways Act 2005.

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