'Broken' rail franchise system to be reviewed


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A review of the rail industry is to be launched by the government next week, following criticism of the way the franchising model is run.

Labour said the model was “broken”, after the East Coast Mainline franchise failed for the third time and passengers on other lines faced strikes and disruption to new timetables.

The party says it will renationalise the railways if it gets into power.

But the government says privatisation has helped “transform” the industry.

The UK’s rail network has been beset by problems, with the East Coast Mainline brought back under government control in May – for the third time in a decade.

Meanwhile, members of the RMT union are holding the latest in a series of 24-hour strikes on Northern and South Western in a long-running dispute over the role of guards on trains.

Hundreds of rail services are likely to be cancelled and replacement buses will operate on some routes.

‘Long suffering passengers’

The government first began to offer Britain’s passenger train services to the private sector to run on a franchised basis in the 1990s.

The review, to be announced on Thursday, is thought likely to examine how issues such those faced by the East Coast Mainline can be avoided in the future. The franchise was a joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin Trains.

This week the Transport Select Committee described the bid to run the line as “naive” and said the DfT must take the blame for not managing it effectively.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has also faced questions over his handling of the disruption faced by passengers on Thameslink and Great Northern trains this year following the introduction of new timetables by owner Govia Thameslink. The Office of Rail and Road has launched an inquiry into the chaos.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Privatisation has helped transform our railway, doubling passenger numbers and delivering more services, extra investment and new trains.

“We are absolutely committed to improving journeys and are always examining ways to improve how the railway serves passengers.”

Labour has said the franchise model is broken and if it was in power it would bring the railways back under public ownership.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said: “Long-suffering rail passengers don’t need a review to explain to them that the franchising system is broken beyond repair.

“No amount of tinkering will change the fact that rail franchising has failed, does not deliver and never will.”



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