The government has today ended rail franchising after more than two decades in a bid to bring together the UK’s ‘fragmented’ rail service.
Jane Imrie

‘Privatisation no longer working’: UK rail franchising ends after a quarter of a century

The government has today ended rail franchising after more than two decades in a bid to bring together the UK’s ‘fragmented’ rail service.

From this morning, franchising will be replaced with Emergency Recovery Management Agreements (ERMAs), which aim to address the continuing impact of the pandemic on the railway as well as deliver on the government’s commitment to replace the current system.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explained: “The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working.

“Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will simplify people’s journeys, ending the uncertainty and confusion about whether you are using the right ticket or the right train company. 

“It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth, but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.

“Passengers will have reliable, safe services on a network totally built around them. It is time to get Britain back on track.”

ERMAs aim to outline the beginning of wider rail industry reform that prioritises the passenger, and follow recommendations given by Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams in 2018.

Keith commented: “These new agreements represent the end of the complicated franchising system, demand more from the expertise and skills of the private sector, and ensure passengers return to a more punctual and co-ordinated railway.

“I am ensuring the recommendations I propose are fit for a post-COVID world, but these contracts kickstart a process of reform that will ensure our railways are entirely focused on the passenger, with a simpler, more effective system that works in their best interest.”

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