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DfT expressed concern over additional ECML services

The Department for Transport criticised the decision by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to allow additional services on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), it has emerged.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, parliamentary under-secretary to the Department for Transport, admitted in response to a written question from Labour’s Lord Bradshaw that the department had “expressed concern” about increasing open access on the ECML in correspondence with the ORR before the decision was made.

However, he said that the department had not undertaken an analysis of the impact of the decision on the reliability and performance of ECML services.

“We now look to Network Rail and the relevant train operators to work together through the normal industry processes, under the oversight of the ORR, to ensure that the resulting pattern of services operates as effectively as possible for passengers and freight users of the line, and to ensure that any negative impacts on performance are minimised,” said Lord Ahmad.

He also said that the government supported fairer charges for open access operators such as Grand Central, which has warned that the decision is likely to have “a significant impact” on its work.

Last week, the ORR revealed its plans for increased route-based devolution, including separate financial arrangements and outputs for each route.

(Image c. Michael Day)

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Huguenot   13/06/2016 at 21:39

The DfT wants to get off people's backs and let the industry get on with it. If VTEC and its franchise predecessors had offered the services being run now and in the future by the open-access operators, and done so competitively, then there wouldn't have been much for the others to do.

Jerry Alderson   14/06/2016 at 17:07

I support open access - I think it has been beneficial to passengers and the industry - but there are legitimate concerns. I think the DfT's concern over revenue abstration could be handled better to ensure an OA TOC only received revenue from tickets sold by a franchised TOC if the OA operator could prove that the passenger used its service (e.g. by recording the ticket number - easily possible with bar codes, QR codes, smartcards etc.) for part of the journey. ORCATS is entirely the wrong mechanism when an OA TOC (either a cherry picker or a leech depending on your view) is involved. The second legitimate DfT complaint is that the OA only gets access because the DfT used taxpayers' money to increase capacity to create the paths. Where the DfT has invested to create capacity the DfT should have a say on who uses the capacity and/or what return it gets on the investment. The DfT's behaviour to addres both is wrong in my opinion. Instead of trying to prevent ORR giving track access to OA operators it should set the ground rules that ORR has to work to when allowing track access. I realise that technically that is wrong in a regulated industry but the raiwlay is unlikle other industries. In the railway the DfT is actually the track owner (through its subsidary, NR) and the customer (since the railway only exists to support the economy of UK PLC and it agrees the services that the franchised operators deliver).

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