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Coronavirus adds pressure to franchise finances

TALKS are reported to be underway between train operators and the Department for Transport about the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on passenger revenue.

Franchise finances are already frail, with the future of South Western Railway in particular doubt. The DfT is also believed to have been negotiating franchise extensions with FirstGroup for Great Western Railway, and with Govia for Southeastern, but so far without apparent result. As things stand, both contracts are due to terminate at the end of this month.

Increasing concern about the virus is reported to have dented passenger numbers by almost a fifth on some routes in recent weeks, as more commuters decide to work from home when they can.

Apart from adjusting premium obligations, the possibilty of reducing the number of trains on some lines is also said to be under consideration.

The Rail Delivery Group has yet to comment, but the Department for Transport has been quoted by the BBC as saying: ‘We recognise how difficult the current situation is for the transport sector and, across government, we are engaging with the sector’s leadership to support workers, businesses and passengers.’

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