Rail watchdog suggests more private sector

Marion Dakers
THE GOVERNMENT should consider making the UK’s rail infrastructure more akin to the private sector, according to a report by the rail watchdog published yesterday.

Network Rail, which is independent from the government but takes a third of its funding from the public purse, should have a “more normal customer/client relationship” with train operating companies, the Office of Rail Regulation said in its long-term outlook.

And while Network Rail has cut the day-to-day cost of the railway by 40 per cent and ramped up investment over the last decade, the ORR said “the returns of the current approach are likely to diminish beyond [2019] without a more fundamental evolution in the structure of the industry”.

The watchdog pointed to the private running of HS1, growing competition among train manufacturers and regional devolution as examples for the future.

The ORR also highlighted Network Rail’s limited funding options, given that its state-guaranteed debt pile passed £30bn this year and is forecasted to reach £50bn by 2020.