Government props up UK’s rail operators

By Andy Hoskins, published 27/03/20

The UK government is implementing emergency measures to help support rail operators during the coronavirus crisis.

With the UK’s franchise model already under pressure, train operators are now running reduced services and suffering dramatic income losses as the nation is urged to stay at home.

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, says the government is allowing operators on franchises to transition onto Emergency Measures Agreements in a bid to keep services running for key workers and the transport of supplies.

“These agreements will suspend the normal financial mechanisms of franchise agreements, transferring all revenue and cost risk to the government,” says Shapps.

“Operators will continue to run day-to-day services for a small, pre-determined management fee.”

Companies entering into the agreements will see a temporary suspension of their existing franchise agreement’s financial mechanisms for an initial six-month period.

Shapps says the offer means “the railway can continue to react quickly to changing circumstances and play its part in serving the national interest”.

He adds: “It will ensure vital services continue to operate for key workers who are keeping the nation running and that we are able to reinstate a normal service quickly when the situation improves.”

A statement from the government says passenger numbers have already dropped by 70% while ticket sales are down two-thirds compared to 2019.

The government has also announced refunds for passengers who have already purchased advance tickets and those holding season tickets they no longer require.