The rail industry has called for a ‘once-in-a-generation system upgrade’ that would see ‘TfL-style’ concessions on commuter routes, more competition on long distance services and a new oversight body.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train firms and Network Rail, said that under its proposals to the Williams Rail Review ‘the current one size fits all franchise system would be replaced with different types of services designed to suit the needs of different groups of passengers’.
A Crossrail train currently branded as TfL rail
It said the new system would improve accountability for passengers but would ‘end the blame game when things sometimes do go wrong’.
The proposals would see a new independent organising body put in charge of the industry, ‘acting as the glue that binds it together so that everyone is working to meet the same customer-centric goals’.
This body would drive up accountability and standards, giving penalties where rail companies fall short, the RDG said.
RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: ‘These proposals call time on short-term fixes and set out the once-in-a-generation system upgrade the railway needs if it is to help the country prosper over the next 25 years.
‘We want to move forward with a rail system that is more focused on customers, more responsive to local communities and more accountable, letting rail companies deliver what people want in each area of the country and rebuilding trust between the industry and passengers.’
Under the proposals, on some mass-commuter routes there would be ‘democratically accountable, TfL-style single-branded concessions’, where an integrated transport body is given more devolved control and rail companies are 'better integrated to deliver services for passengers'.
On long-distance routes, 'where appropriate', multiple operators would compete for passengers’ business, making services far more responsive to their needs.
On other routes, where passengers have less choice, there would be ‘tough targets’ and incentives for train companies to deliver the outcomes their customers want, ‘instead of today’s tightly specified inputs-based contracts’.
The RDG said the new system would be underpinned by an easier to use, better value range of fares, delivered by updating regulations. ‘This could see pay-as-you-go with a price cap introduced on commuter services across the country, giving flexible workers a better deal’.
The system would also enable greater local control over fares in devolved areas and better integration of rail fares with those for other modes of transport, the RDG said.
It repeated its recent claim that on long distance routes, updating fares regulations around peak and off-peak travel would help spread demand more evenly across the day.