Friday, 12 May 2017

Report on Rail Franchising in Britain

A report on railway franchising in Britain was published in early May 2017, 'Ensuring a Sustainable Rail Industry - Options for developing franchised passenger services', published by the Campaign for Better Transport. It is an interesting read, partly because it has some useful statistics about rail travel, franchise operations and passenger attitudes and partly because it tries to generate debate on the industry and the way in which it is run.

The report notes that passenger "trust" in the railway is falling and it suggests that this is causing, in part at least, a slowdown in the increase in traffic seen over the last 20 years. It also suggests that the issue is partly due to the franchising model itself, which doesn't encourage quality.

There is also justified criticism of the complexity of the fares systems and the difficulties that they present to passengers. I do not understand why we can't have contactless ticketing across the country.

There are some omissions:

  • There is no mention of staffing problems and the recent series of politically driven strikes;
  • There is no realisation that the capacity constraints that are causing a fall in punctuality;
  • There is no mention of the responsibilities of Network Rail in the performance model;
  • There is no understanding that the British, as a nation, generally deride the public transport system;
  • There is a mistaken belief that what has been done on one railway can be applied to any other one with the same results. 
The value in the report is the generation of discussion on the performance of franchised railway operation. It is worth a read.

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