Ministers today announced the end of rail franchising after 24 years by extending support measures introduced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department for Transport (DfT) today announced a wide scale shake-up to the UK’s rail network in a bid to create a “simpler and more effective structure” over the coming months.
Train operators will receive a series of fresh “recovery” contracts focused on achieving tougher performance targets and reducing management costs.
Operators will today see new “transitional” contracts called Emergency Recovery Management Agreement, which aim to cut “excessive capital costs” on the UK’s rail network.
The DfT has taken on franchise holders’ revenue and cost risks since the outbreak of the pandemic in March at a total cost of more than £3.5bn to the taxpayer.
The government body said the shake-up will see the “biggest change to the railways in a quarter of a century”, as it attempts to clamp down on services beleaguered with delays, cancellations and overcrowding.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working.”
“Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth – but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.
“Passengers will have reliable, safe services on a network totally built around them.”
Keith Williams, who led the Williams Review into Britain’s rail network, said: “These new agreements represent the end of the complicated franchising system, demand more from the expertise and skills of the private sector, and ensure passengers return to a more punctual and co-ordinated railway.
“I am ensuring the recommendations I propose are fit for a post-Covid world, but these contracts kickstart a process of reform that will ensure our railways are entirely focused on the passenger, with a simpler, more effective system that works in their best interest.”
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) supported the move but called on the government to “to cut out the middleman and bring all UK rail franchises into public ownership once and for all”.
“This announcement should now force the government’s hand and lead them to face up to what has been staring them in the face for the best part of three decades, that public ownership is the only model that works and can steer us through a crisis such as Covid-19,” said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.
“The government must now ditch its obsession with the free-market and call to a halt any attempts to reanimate the corpse of rail privatisation.”