Virgin Trains to demand more deregulation of railway system

VIRGIN Trains will today call for more deregulation of the railway industry and ask the government to hand greater control over timetables to private operating companies, City A.M. has learned.

The West Coast Main Line operator will today use an event at the House of Commons to call for an end to the Department of Transport’s micromanagement of franchise terms and say it wants the autonomy to alter services.

The company wants the railway franchising system to more closely resemble the state it was in shortly after privatisation in 1997, on the basis that the “people who are closest to the customers are best to judge what they want”.

For example, rather than committing to run a set timetable, it wants to be set free to run the franchise as it sees fit on the condition it meets certain standards – such as increasing overall passenger traffic to certain destinations and maintaining customer satisfaction ratings.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “While the government will always have a role to play in franchise specification to balance what operators want with the needs of fare payers and taxpayers, we are delighted to see Virgin planning for the future and are committed to remaining in the UK rail market.”