Transport for the North (TfN) has welcomed new measures introduced to reform the UK rail network, announced by government this week,
The new agreements in place enforce tougher performance requirements for the rail network nationally, and reset management fees that operators receive to run the railways, effectively ending the existing franchise system. The agreements are continuations of support for rail companies after the coronavirus pandemic significantly reduced passenger numbers.
David Hoggarth, Strategic Rail Director for TfN, said:
This is a significant moment for our railways with franchising as we know it ending after 24 years.
“The Department for Transport has made clear to us that our work in jointly overseeing rail operators in the North will continue under the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs).
“We have seen significant progress towards greater oversight in the North, both since the timetable crisis of 2018 and throughout the pandemic.
“Local decision-makers have helped shape operating decisions for the benefit of passengers and this needs to continue. These new transitional contracts will help us prepare for further reform as we work towards a more cohesive railway which can respond better to passenger needs as reflected in our submissions to the Williams Review.”
Northern Trains, which was removed from the franchise system earlier in the year and in the hands of the Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort due to poor performance by Arriva, is unaffected by the changes. Performance monitoring of TransPennine Express will also continue by TfN. David added:
Today marks another important step on the road to rail reform in the UK with new transitional bridging contracts for rail operators, including TransPennine Express.
“These new contracts build on the work already taking place to reform our railways and will help secure a reliable and resilient service as we move towards a simpler, more efficient and more cohesive railway.
“We remain locked into this work for the duration and have already made extensive submissions to the Williams Review which will help inform the White Paper on rail reform which we understand will be published once the path through the Coronavirus pandemic is clearer.
“We now have a reliable railway service for the first time in years – albeit operating at reduced levels. As services ramp up it is vital that these new levels of reliability are maintained – but we recognise there will be challenges.”