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Boris Johnson to reform current rail franchising model

Boris Johnson to scraprail franchise system in favour of reformed model

The UK’s rail franchising model is to be overhauled and proposals for railway reform brought forward, the Government has announced in today’s Queens Speech.

At the State Opening of Parliament, the Government revealed that it wants to scrap the rail franchising system, set up in the 1990s, as early as next year and replace it with a model focused on “performance and reliability.”

The railway industry is currently awaiting the results of the Williams Review, the government’s root and branch review of the current model, and further details will likely be released when the review is published.

Rail reform was just one of the 22 bills announced in this year’s Queens speech which included social care reform, climate change measures and changes to the UK justice system.

Speaking in the House of Lords, the Queen said the Government will “ensure that the benefits of a prospering economy reach every corner of the United Kingdom.”

On top of a broad national infrastructure strategy and new legislation on broadband connectivity, “proposals on railway reform are to be brought forward” to replace the current model which has private operators handed localised monopolies over rail networks.

The major shake-up will aim to improve reliability and reduce fragmentation in a railway system based on the same model used when the railways were privatised, as well having localalised decision-making about the day-to-day running of the network.

A number of radical proposals have already been put forward to Keith Williams, the independent chair of the Rail Review, by rail bodies and operators.

In July, the ORR urged sweeping accessibility and compensation reforms, and the Rail Delivery Group also called for an end to the current franchising model in favour of having multiple operators on mass-commuter routes and an independent reviewing body.

The majority of train operators, passenger and industry bodies have called for major reform, such as Virgin proposing a new airline-style model for fares and franchising.

Once the review has made its recommendations, which it is hoped will be in the next few weeks, the government is expected to publish a white paper on the reforms.

Rail union the RMT were far from positive in their response to the Queen’s Speech, with general secretary Mick Cash calling the proposed changes “the current failed rail franchising model re-packaged and re-branded.”

“Private operation of our railways in incompatible with reliable and high-quality services, lower fares and investment in infrastructure as the train companies will always suck the life blood out of the system in profits and dividends.”

Image credit -  Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images


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