Daily Mail

Tax­payer to keep GWR on the rails

- Business · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · First Great Western · United Kingdom · London · Oxford · Oxfordshire · Penzance · United Kingdom Department for Transport · Department for Transport · FirstGroup

THE tax­payer bailout of Great West­ern Rail­way will con­tinue into next sum­mer – a sign of the havoc coro­n­avirus is wreak­ing on Bri­tain’s rail net­works.

Train oper­a­tors have been grap­pling with hugely re­duced com­muter num­bers and at­tempts to en­force so­cial dis­tanc­ing on trains since lock­down be­gan in March. Now First Group, which runs GWR trains from

Lon­don to the likes of Ox­ford and Pen­zance, is ask­ing for Government help to con­tinue for at least an­other ten months.

At­tempts to keep rail fran­chises afloat since the be­gin­ning of the pan­demic have al­ready cost the Government £3.5bn.

In March, the Government en­forced emer­gency mea­sures for the fran­chises, as lock­down forced work­ers to stay at home and pas­sen­ger num­bers plunged. Rather than al­low­ing the rail oper­a­tors such as First Group to keep any prof­its from ticket sales, and forcing them to bear any losses, the Depart­ment for Trans­port said it would take on the risk and in­stead pay the oper­a­tors a man­age­ment fee. First Group was orig­i­nally plan­ning to op­er­ate GWR un­der this ar­range­ment for six months, but it is ex­tend­ing the aid un­til June 26, 2021. Con­di­tions for the UK’s rail net­work are set to stay bleak as many city-cen­tre busi­nesses are telling staff to stay at home un­til next year.

A spokesman for the Depart­ment for Trans­port said: ‘We are tak­ing de­ci­sive ac­tion to keep ser­vices run­ning dur­ing th­ese un­prece­dented times.’

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