WHEN is a Great British Railway not a Great British Railway? When in reality it’s mostly an English railway and only a slight improvement on the old one, which everyone agrees was rubbish. I suppose Slightly Less Rubbish English Railways doesn’t have quite the same ring (and if you phoned SLRER to book a ticket you’d worry the call centre staff were steaming).

What will be next for a rebranding? Are old English sheepdogs to become senior British herding executives? Is English breakfast tea to become British brew? That would perhaps make more sense, as it’s claimed the strong stuff was concocted by a Scottish tea master and exported to England by a suitably perked-up Queen Victoria following a trip to Balmoral. Perhaps the new name for ScotRail should be Brilliant European Rail. I mean, Scotland is *in* Europe, and the franchise will be taken over by a public-sector body next year, rather than merely “shaken up”.

English Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is very excited about what GRB will mean for punctuality and reliability in England. Not because it will improve either of these things, but because when trains in England are late or cancelled it will be easier to identify who is to blame. Great! He’s also excited about simplified ticketing, which means that when English passengers are being ripped off with extortionate fares they will be confident these are the best prices available. Also great! GBR will become “a brand which is trusted and known and actually has some control over what’s happening on the railway”. Gr… wait! It’ll have some control, but not so much that he’s going to make any promises about better services or cheaper tickets. And god knows what control it will have over Scotland, given the great majority of transport powers are devolved and this grand announcement is news to the Scottish Government.

Mr Shapps is particularly excited about his new flexible season tickets, which mean commuters won’t have to pay for five days of commuting if they only go into the office two or three days a week. The headline benefit of this “great” new system is that people who use the railways less in future will pay less for their tickets. I’m surprised they didn’t include other great benefits like not being pushed onto the tracks or required to sit in a pool of vomit.

Simplifying and centralising timetables and ticketing is sensible, and the Transport for London model is a good one. The Get Glasgow Moving campaign has been lobbying for years for a single seamless, single-ticket transport network for that city (bringing together buses, subways, trains and bikes), with an affordable daily price cap, but argues this can only be achieved through public ownership and control. Those who took to Twitter yesterday to claim the Tories were stealing Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of rail nationalisation clearly hadn’t read beyond the headlines about GBR, as what’s on the table is “public control but private operators” – and no guarantees that fares will stay at the current levels, let alone be lowered.

READ MORE: Scottish Government fumes at Westminster over 'Great British Railways' plan

Fresh from telling us we’re all in this together, the Tories are now keen to remind us that the unwashed hordes who use public transport are subsidy junkies who should be grateful for even a sniff of a comfy seat on a commuter train. If it wasn’t for the generous tax contributions from Tory donors with chauffeur-driven limousines, they’d be reduced to hitch-hiking to work. Folk paying £47.80 for a single from Manchester to Birmingham should be grovelling in gratitude that they aren’t forced to ride there on the back of a donkey.

One might argue that further subsidy of rail travel is entirely appropriate, given the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions combined with newfound hesitancy about using public transport as the UK enters its “new normal” phase. Who wants to pay the best part of £50 for a 90-minute masked train journey when it only takes two hours to drive solo? The Tories will claim they need to claw back the sums splurged on the Covid-19 response, implicitly suggesting the UK had to choose between protecting the population (or what’s left of it) and saving the planet.

As many transport powers are devolved, the Scottish Government can press ahead with bringing ScotRail into public ownership and decarbonising rail services, but it has repeatedly called for full devolution of responsibility for railways in Scotland, including infrastructure. Rather than consulting with governments in other parts of the UK, the Tories are opting to slap a Union flag on Network Rail while having the cheek to say their new approach simplifies things by having one body take responsibility for both tracks and trains.

In some ways it’s the perfect plan – if Scottish trains run to time they can take the credit, and if things don’t go well they can assign the blame to our Transport Secretary.

Shapps could have dreamed up his “great” ticketing changes without stepping on Scotland’s toes, but what good is a sensible policy plan for English passengers without a bit of Great British Goading tacked on to make sure the Scots know their place?