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Alba Iulia
Friday, September 25, 2020

DfT has “no idea what to do,” say top railway insiders

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Strategic indecision and a complete leadership vacuum paralyzed the railway strategy of the government and the Department of Transport.

“Ministers don’t know what to do,” said senior official RAIL source close to the discussions.

“It’s the real story right now. I wouldn’t credit them for having a plan. They do not have any.

“The government is in trouble. Complete stop. There is not much leadership. In this context, you can see why railway operations are all a bit up in the air. “

DfT officials have actually started talking to operating companies (TOCs) about how to fund passenger services as the railway emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. But there is no proposed strategic framework – or even concerted thinking – on which tactical plans can be built.

On the one hand, the government does not know what to do next. On the other, an afflicted (and very powerful) treasure is determined not to “ bounce back ” in a hastily designed solution, as he thinks with the Emergency Measures Agreements (EMA) quickly designed and immediately implemented at the start of locking.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris only says that “work is underway in government to determine the most effective approach after this six-month period is over.”

Operators estimate that there should be a 12 to 18 month extension of the current six-month EMAs, which expire in September.

They receive management fees equivalent to a margin of 2% on the operating costs before March 2020. The number of passengers still does not represent more than 20% of the level before locking. If train operators reverted to the previous way of managing franchises, everything would fail within a few days.

The railway costs about £ 14 billion a year to operate. In 2018-2019, £ 10.4 billion came from tariffs and most of the rest of taxpayers. Turnover this year could reach £ 2 billion. The government has so far approved funding of £ 3.5 billion to maintain the temporary measures.

“EMA expires soon,” said high-level industry source RAIL, subject to anonymity.

“The Treasury felt” finished “with them the last time. They will be everywhere in the next steps. There is a lot of work to do on them and getting closer in three months would be miraculous. “

  • For the full EXCLUSIVE story, read RAIL 908, published July 1 and available in digital version now.

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