Pandemic: British government reforms its model for privatizing train lines

Pandemic: British government reforms its model for privatizing train lines

London | The British government announced Monday a reform of its model of privatization of train lines by deciding to end private franchises and replace them with concession contracts with greater involvement of the public authorities.

“The privatization model adopted 25 years ago has seen significant increases in the number of passengers, but this pandemic has proven that it no longer works,” Transport Minister Grant Shapps said in a statement.

The management of train lines will no longer be done by franchises, which gave full management to private operators, but is governed from Monday by new concession-type contracts.

From now on, a private operator will be able to manage a line for the payment of a commission with in return more stringent performance objectives than before.

The government hopes that this mechanism will be simpler and more efficient and will allow rail transport to revive after having seen its activity fall since the start of the health crisis.

This model will be temporary, however, warns the Ministry of Transport, which intends to switch to a new system whose contours have not yet been defined but will be revealed in a “white paper” published once the evolution of the pandemic allows it. .

“He will retain the best aspects of the private sector, including competition and investment, but with strategic vision, leadership and a sense of responsibility,” said Shapps.

The government specifies that the taxpayer will have to put his hand in his pocket in the short term, via the new temporary contracts and as long as the traffic remains below normal.

But he assures us that the future reform will be beneficial in the medium and long term for public finances.

The government was forced to reform the sector after deciding at the end of March to temporarily take effective control of rail lines in the country to avoid bankruptcies, by suspending franchise contracts.

The failures of the privatization of railways are not new in the United Kingdom and precede the pandemic, between additional costs, delays and inefficiencies related to the division of the operation. In recent years, the government has even had to nationalize to save badly managed lines.

Railway operations were privatized in the mid-1990s in the UK under the Conservative government of John Major. Rail lines are currently divided into 16 franchises across the country and are managed by a myriad of operators, including SNCF.

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