Think-tank slams lack of competition on railways

'Railopolies' come under fire as ambitions for privatisation are seen as abandoned

The ambitions behind rail privatisation have been "betrayed" by successive governments over the past two decades, according to an influential centre-right think-tank that was co-founded by Margaret Thatcher.

In its Rail's Second Chance report launched today, the Centre for Policy Studies blasts ministers for failing to introduce sufficient competition on the train lines, meaning that there are "a series of state-sponsored rail operator monopolies or 'railopolies' ".

Report author Tony Lodge has recommended the growth of "open access", which allows rival train operators to run services on the same track on which franchises work. At present, this system is only used in a handful of areas, but two non-subsidised operators, Grand Central and First West Hull on the East Coast Mainline, were found to help drive down fare hikes.

At stations where these two operators ran services, fare increases between 2007-12 were only 11 per cent against 17 per cent for the parts of the 393-mile line that were not open to competition. Mr Lodge has recommended setting up a unit within the Department for Transport, of which he is so critical, that would be dedicated to awarding open access contracts.

He said: "If you look at the 1992 White Paper for rail privatisation, its ambitions have been betrayed – what we have now is nothing like those aims. I've spoken to some senior people in the Conservative Party who consider the DfT a 'failed organisation' – it needs to be broken up or given a real jolt."

He added that the problem with the DfT is that it has long lacked "political leadership" as a result of ministers and secretaries of state typically moving on from the department so quickly. As a result, civil servants effectively end up in charge.

The railways need more services because of how many people now travel by train: there are more passengers than at any time since 1929, while the number is expected to double by 2030. An ever-growing population and high motoring costs have led to a situation where creaking rail infrastructure is expected to cope with 1.5bn passenger journeys in 2013. Although the report backs franchising, provided it is open to competition, it notes that the West Coast Mainline fiasco last year has left the model in "disarray". That situation saw Virgin Trains stripped of its franchise and awarded to FirstGroup, only for the government to scrap the decision when it found that there were serious flaws in the bidding process.

The subsidy for the railways was also found to have gone up from a low of £1.68bn in 2000-01 to £3.9bn in 2011-12. This is largely down to the safety improvements that have taken place on Britain's railways since the Hatfield train crash in 2000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable