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Rail franchising set to face the axe in 2020

THE passenger rail franchising system set up as part of privatisation in the 1990s is set to be abolished, as one of the measures to be announced in the Queen’s Speech today.

In advance of the State Opening of Parliament, the government has revealed that it wants to scrap rail franchising, replacing it by a model focused on ‘performance and reliability’.

The Sunday Telegraph says a ‘revolutionary’ overhaul of the railways can be expected next year.

Further details will probably have to await proposals from the Department for Transport, which is also due to publish the outcome of the Williams Review in the next few weeks. Keith Williams has already said that the present system ‘cannot continue in the way that it is today. It is no longer delivering clear benefits for either taxpayers or farepayers’.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘Anything that falls short of full public ownership of our railways amounts to tinkering at the edges. The British travelling public have had enough of franchising – full stop. 

‘Frankly, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that the system by which our railways are run is broken well beyond repair. I would urge Johnson to fully engage with the problem.

~‘Reform of the franchising model is not what’s needed – we need plans for the future of our industry which puts passengers before profit.’

The first franchises were awarded in late 1995, and the first franchised train to run was operated by South West Trains early on the morning of 4 February 1996.

Since then franchises have had mixed fortunes, because although many did well several failed. Virgin Trains East Coast was the most recent to collapse, and its operations were handed over to state-owned LNER in June 2018.

However, although railway reform is expected to be included in today’s Queen Speech, it will also depend on a vote in favour of the speech by MPs, which is not necessarily certain.

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