The UK’s rail franchising system is set to be drastically overhauled as early as next year.
Plans will be announced in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech to scrap the current rail franchising model – where contracts are awarded to private companies to run commercial rail services – and replace it with a system based on “performance and reliability”, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
The speech is understood to include a commitment to publish a white paper that will use recommendations from an ongoing rail review by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams.
Concrete proposals for a new model will not be revealed until this report is released, however one option reportedly being discussed is the concession model.
The concession model sees private companies being contracted to run the train lines, but with local authorities setting fares and timetables.
Bruce Williamson from advocacy group Railfuture said the group welcomed the news.
“We have for some time been an advocate for a change to the franchise system, because it’s been clear for a long time that it’s not working,” he said.
“We’ve been an advocate for a concession model for some time, but we’ll just have to wait and see what Boris Johnson comes out with.
“The devil is in the detail.”
However, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) were less positive about the impending announcement.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said no one will be fooled by “this same meat, different gravy spin from Downing Street”.
“Private operation of our railways is incompatible with reliable and high quality services, lower fares and investment in infrastructure,” he said.
“We need a nationalised railway where quality, investment, planning and safety come first.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps told The Sunday Telegraph that passengers deserve a “punctual, modern and reliable” railway.
“Our priority is ensuring we have reliable trains which run on time, delivering the outstanding services communities across the country rely on,” he said.