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Charity calls for end to nightmare rail journeys

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A new report – published days before the New Year rail fare rises come into effect – is calling for an end to franchising and for city regions to have more control over their rail services. Change is needed to bring to an end the years of poor services passengers have endured, and ensure the railways deliver social, environmental and economic benefits to communities.

The future of rail, published by transport charity Campaign for Better Transport, examines the current failings of the railways and looks at what steps the Government needs to take to get rail back on track.

In addition to the recommendations on franchising and devolution, the report also calls for a new national rail policy and a new public body to deliver it, as well as major fares and ticketing reform.

Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“Passengers have suffered unreliable, expensive, overcrowded trains for too long: Britain’s railways need to change. The Government has committed to end the current structures and franchising system which are unwieldy, unaccountable, unimaginative and ineffective, providing weak alignment with society’s needs, with neither passengers nor taxpayers getting value for money.

“Our research has found that the railways have the potential to deliver huge economic, social and environmental benefits to communities and the country as a whole, but in order to deliver these objectives the focus of public policy and government action, as well as the system itself, needs to change fundamentally. The Government must now seize its chance to put an end to nightmare rail journeys by delivering a new national rail policy and the means to implement it, along with comprehensive fares reform in its forthcoming White Paper.”

The Future of Rail report recommends:

  • A new national rail policy which rethinks how the railways are run and what they exist to do, including setting of social, environmental and economic outcomes the railway should deliver against.
  • Devolution of procurement and oversight of services, with the management of regional networks devolved to city authorities and sub-regional transport bodies which are better placed to oversee services and better integrate the railway with wider local transport networks.
  • Replacing the current overly complex franchise system with a much more flexible outcome-based one which allows competitive intercity services, concessions for commuter areas, and specialist agreements for areas seeing significant change and investment.
  • Major fares and ticketing reform with speedier implementation of account-based tickets, part-time season tickets, pay as you go travel, multimodal and zonal fares, as well as ending the RPI-linked annual increase.
  • Growing new sources of funding for the railway in addition to the farebox income, such as land value capture and the Community Infrastructure Levy to raise revenue from development.
  • A new industry structure with a publicly funded arm’s-length body to manage rail planning and the overall use of the network, including delivering national policy.

The report draws on the evidence submitted by the charity to the Williams Rail Review, which was set up to transform Britain’s railways. The Review, which is due to be published in the new year, will form the basis of a White Paper which will set out the Government’s future rail policy.

The Future of Rail is being published a few days before the annual rail fare increase comes into force. From 1 January passengers will pay on average 2.7 per cent more for their tickets. Campaign for Better Transport is calling for the current RPI-linked annual increase to be dropped in favour of a system which keeps rises to a minimum and more accurately reflects inflation.

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