Government must ‘act now’ to reform rail franchises

The Government’s commitment to reforming rail franchises has ‘barely begun to be turned into reality’, the Chairman of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has said.

Speaking at a lecture at the Institution of Civil Engineers in central London on Monday, Tom Smith urged the Government to ‘provide tangible evidence that it will deliver on this commitment by implementing less prescriptive franchises’.

He warned that ‘unless the Government steps back from the day to day running of the railways, train companies’ efforts to attract more passengers and reduce industry costs will be hindered’.

The ATOC chairman said that there is a ‘narrow window of opportunity’ to implement genuine reform.

An unprecedented series of franchises are due be let in the next few years that account for almost 70% of the industry’s revenue.

He said that for the next three rail franchises, the bidders for which were announced at the end of last month, the Government ‘must shift from telling train companies what they must do in every last detail, to drawing out what they will do over and above a minimum set of requirements’.

Tom Smith said:

“We need a new spirit in the relationship between the Government and the companies enfranchised to run train services and a new form of contract.

“Without reform, we will continue with inflexible, overly prescribed franchises that do not unlock the full potential of the industry to achieve growth and efficiency.”

Source : Railway Reform

 

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