City regions say Government’s decision to end franchising brings ‘greater stability’ to rail sector

Train in station image

The Urban Transport Group, the UK’s network of city region transport authorities, has today welcomed the announcement by Government that it will end the current rail franchising model and replace it with new ‘recovery’ contracts.

Responding to the announcement, Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Transport North East and lead Board member on rail for the Urban Transport Group, said: 

“Rail plays a key role in the wider public transport networks that serve our city regions. We therefore welcome the Government’s decision today to bring greater stability to the rail sector through new and stable funding support during the pandemic backed up by tighter contracts. Now there is greater stability, there is also the opportunity to ensure that coordination between national rail services and wider urban public transport networks is strengthened so that we are consistent across modes on the advice we are giving passengers and in order to maximise and coordinate the available socially distanced capacity. With greater stability, there is also now the basis for further reform by extending the benefits that devolution of responsibilities for rail to devolved authorities and administrations has already brought to places like London and Liverpool.”

Tobyn Hughes added:

“Following on from today’s announcement on rail, there is now an opportunity to put similar longer term funding arrangements in place for our light rail networks, for which the latest short term funding deal runs out on 26 October. We should also follow the precedent now set by rail and move to a similar contractual approach between city region transport authorities and bus operators as now exists between national Government and rail operators. This is so that public subsidy is efficiently targeted and services can be best matched to local need. Passengers in our areas experience rail, light rail and bus as part of single public transport networks and therefore bus, rail and light rail should be brought into line otherwise we risk fragmentation getting in the way of providing the best public transport service we can in these extraordinarily challenging times.”