Published on : Wednesday, February 8, 2017
The Commons Transport Select Committee revealed in one of their scathing report that Britain’s rail franchising system is failing passengers. Private operators are restricted in how much they can improve services and efficiency.
The committee warned saying the relationship between Network Rail, which is responsible for managing rail infrastructure – and train operating companies (TOCs) is “not as coordinated as it should be”. This mismanagement is hold responsible for causing poor performance and leading to higher fares.
The Department for Transport (DfT) was urged to commission an independent review of its franchising functions. it included the possibility of transferring enforcement powers to regulator the Office of Rail and Road. The report also said that there could be no “single template” for franchises.
According to the report, there would be less financial risk to firms taking on smaller franchises, which may enable new firms to enter the market. In the 1990s, during the era of privatisation, there were as many as 25 franchises which is now 15 in number.
Transport user watchdog Transport Focus found that passenger satisfaction suffered a “significant decline” over the past 12 months. On January 2, the fares were spiked by an average of 2.3% across Britain and caused protests by public transport campaigners and trade unions. Transport Select Committee chairman Louise Ellman said the current franchising model is “no longer fit for purpose”.
The committee said that a wide restructuring of the system would be “prohibitively impractical” as it will cause restrictions of existing agreements and add to the burden on resources.
Ellman also said that while franchising enabled passenger growth and service improvements when it was first rolled out, passenger satisfaction with the railways is falling.
“Its core objectives are no longer being met, potential benefits are being lost and the passenger is suffering through higher fares and continued under-performance.”
The DfT said £40bn is being spent on upgrading the railways and the franchising system has brought major investment to help create one of the safest and fastest growing networks in Europe.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing rail operators and Network Rail, however went on insisting that the taxpayers and the passengers were actually benefitted from the franchising.