Rail Partners has called for the government to give train operators more freedom to attract back customers.
According to the rail association, the current system – introduced during the pandemic and based on contracts instead of franchising – needs to evolve through an increase harnessing of the private sector.
Rail Partners has called for a renewal of National Rail contracts, including giving rail operators more freedom when it comes to timetables and ticketing.
If implemented, the measures could unlock as much as £1.6bn, which the Treasury is currently missing out on due to the system in place.
“The gap in rail finances cannot be closed by cost savings alone – in fact, a sole focus on reducing costs risks a spiral of decline, with cuts to services putting passengers off using rail, leading to further cost pressures and further cuts,” said chief executive Andy Bagnall.
“To secure the financial sustainability of the sector, encourage private sector innovation and investment, and ultimately protect service levels and jobs, operators must be given greater freedoms to attract customers back and help the network return to growth.”
City A.M. has approached the Department for Transport for comment.
Changes in how the railway network is run were initially announced in May 2021.
As part of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, the UK has moved away from the franchising model to the creation of a new body, Great British Railways (GBR).
The new organisation will take over Network Rail’s role, issuing contracts to run trains and setting fares.
GBR’s creation was postponed from early 2024 to the next parliamentary session as the energy and cost-of-living crisis took over the government’s agenda.