Rail (UK)

Op­er­a­tors con­fi­dent that pas­sen­gers will re­turn

- Ecology · Climate Change · British House of Commons · Department for Transport · United Kingdom Department for Transport · Go-Ahead Group · Chris Heaton-Harris · Peter Wilkinson

Pas­sen­ger num­bers are ex­pected to re­turn to up to 75% of preCOVID lev­els when the pan­demic eases, ac­cord­ing to Abel­lio Group Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Do­minic Booth.

Ad­dress­ing the House of Com­mons Trans­port Select Com­mit­tee on Novem­ber 18, he said: “We re­main very con­fi­dent about win­ning the ma­jor­ity of pas­sen­gers back. We ex­pect to be able to win back around 75% on a like-for-like ba­sis for pas­sen­ger jour­neys.

“Within that, there will be quite a lot of change - for in­stance, travel-to-work pat­terns will be sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent. Try­ing to look to that fu­ture is cru­cial. We do not want to see a per­ma­nent trans­fer of peo­ple to the roads, not least be­cause of the cli­mate change agenda and con­ges­tion.”

Peter Wilkin­son, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Pas­sen­ger Ser­vices, Depart­ment for Trans­port, told the TSC: “Get­ting back to 75% in any short pe­riod of time looks quite bullish. There is no ques­tion in our mind that with the ERMAs and the Di­rect Awards that fol­low, if we get the in­cen­tives right with the train op­er­a­tors, we can get them to de­tect early where their mar­ket is com­ing back and play to that mar­ket. The bot­tom line is that we need to get pas­sen­gers back on the rail­way to main­tain a fi­nan­cially vi­able sys­tem.”

Go-Ahead Group Chief Strat­egy and Cus­tomer Of­fi­cer Katy Tay­lor said: “Sev­eral of us also run bus com­pa­nies. We saw pas­sen­ger num­bers prior to the se­cond lock­down reach­ing around 70%. That was bear­ing in mind that there was still so­cial dis­tanc­ing and pock­ets in the var­i­ous tier sys­tems.

“I am pretty con­fi­dent that once peo­ple are en­abled to choose how they want to live their lives, as op­posed to fol­low­ing Gov­ern­ment

so we have a lit­tle bit longer. But cer­tainly for the first ones off the rack, it will be very quick.

“We were promised by DfT that fran­chises would not suf­fer dur­ing the ter­mi­na­tion for the on­set of COVID and the Gov­ern­ment pol­icy around COVID. We are hop­ing that the process proves true to the fact, and that we have trans­parency, fair­ness and rea­son­able­ness in de­ter­min­ing ter­mi­na­tion fees.

“All I can say is that we do not recog­nise some of the num­bers that have come out so far from the pre­vi­ously strong and healthy con­tracts we had in place. We are very con­cerned about the process.

“At the mo­ment, if you de­cide not to ac­cept it, the pro­posal is that you would go back on to your fran­chise agree­ment. And the con­se­quences, what­ever they might be, would then fol­low.”

Dur­ing the week of the TSC hear­ing, Abel­lio ran 95%-97% of its planned ser­vices across its fran­chises and con­ces­sions, but pas­sen­ger num­bers were at only 18% of pre-pan­demic lev­els.

Later in the ses­sion, DfT Deputy Di­rec­tor for Pas­sen­ger Ser­vices Neil Hart ex­plained: “We are giv­ing the op­er­a­tors the very best pos­si­ble chance to un­der­stand and sign up to those ter­mi­na­tion sums. They are not obliged to, and it is en­tirely within their gift. I would not want to spec­u­late as to how likely they are to sign up, or not, but we are cer­tainly fol­low­ing the process that gives them the best chance.”

DfT MD of Pas­sen­ger Ser­vices Peter Wilkin­son told MPs: “I am not afraid of le­gal ac­tion. I do not want it. None of us wants it. We hope to be able to find an agreed po­si­tion. But if the agreed po­si­tion is not value for money for tax­pay­ers, we will have to stand up for what we think is value for money. If that ends up in le­gal ac­tion, it will be very un­for­tu­nate, but we will stand be­hind our process and be­hind what we are try­ing to achieve.”

Rail Min­is­ter Chris Heaton-Har­ris told the TSC that the EMAs had cost £4.07 bil­lion. He added: “The Trea­sury has al­lowed us to en­ter into ERMA con­tracts that last up to 18 months, giv­ing us some lit­tle time to plan for the fu­ture. The rail­way will need, prob­a­bly for the first time in its his­tory, to fight for its pas­sen­gers to come back to it.”

Gov­ern­ment sup­port was £550 mil­lion to £650m per pe­riod, he said. @Richard_rail

 ??  ?? Tay­lor: “Lots of them will choose to re­turn to their of­fices to see peo­ple.”
Tay­lor: “Lots of them will choose to re­turn to their of­fices to see peo­ple.”
 ??  ?? Booth: “We do not want per­ma­nent trans­fer of peo­ple to the roads.”
Booth: “We do not want per­ma­nent trans­fer of peo­ple to the roads.”
 ??  ?? Mont­gomery: “So­cial dis­tanc­ing is the cur­rent chal­lenge for us.”
Mont­gomery: “So­cial dis­tanc­ing is the cur­rent chal­lenge for us.”
 ?? GRAHAM NUTTALL. ?? Tran­sPen­nine Ex­press 68027 Splen­did ar­rives at York on Au­gust 20, pro­pel­ling the 1534 Scar­bor­ough-Liverpool Lime Street. TPE is one of the first three op­er­a­tors with an Emer­gency Re­cov­ery Mea­sures Agree­ment that is set to ex­pire on March 31 2021.
GRAHAM NUTTALL. Tran­sPen­nine Ex­press 68027 Splen­did ar­rives at York on Au­gust 20, pro­pel­ling the 1534 Scar­bor­ough-Liverpool Lime Street. TPE is one of the first three op­er­a­tors with an Emer­gency Re­cov­ery Mea­sures Agree­ment that is set to ex­pire on March 31 2021.
 ??  ?? Heaton-Har­ris: “The rail­way will need to fight for its pas­sen­gers to come back.”
Heaton-Har­ris: “The rail­way will need to fight for its pas­sen­gers to come back.”

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