Passengers and taxpayers deserve better value from the railroad, MPs say Business News

Passengers and taxpayers deserve better value from the railroad in England, the public spending watchdog has said.

In a hard-hitting report, MEPs from the Public Accounts Committee say the Ministry of Transport (DfT) “neither has the necessary urgency nor appreciates the scale of the challenge ahead” for rail.

The Overview of the English Rail System recounts a series of failures. He says the railway has “suffered from a lack of strategic direction and accountability for many years” and “struggled to improve reliability, quality and flexibility of service.”

Public Accounts Committee Chair Dame Meg Hillier of Labor said: “Decent public transport is essential for both households and national economies. Rail reform will not work if it does not work for taxpayers and paying passengers, and the government will not meet its economic and environmental goals without effective rail reform.

“The government must show that it can act urgently and put the passenger experience at the center of its reforms.”

The committee’s report says the costs to the taxpayer of the failed franchise system nearly doubled from 2015 to £ 5.1 billion in 2020.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, passenger demand peaked at around 1.35 billion trips per year as of 2016, confusing forecasts for continued revenue growth. At the same time, the report says, “Network Rail has become less efficient and has not met efficiency targets”, although it has since improved.

The collapse in passenger incomes during the coronavirus crisis has cost taxpayers £ 8.5bn so far, representing a £ 19m a day subsidy to run largely empty trains .

The report states that the DfT “lacks a compelling and timely plan to encourage passengers to return to the railroad as part of the Covid-19 recovery”.

Rail use remains at around 50% of pre-pandemic levels, while car use has returned to near normal levels.

The committee demands that the DfT outline the measures it is taking to encourage passengers to return to the railroad, including plans for rail fare reform and flexible ticketing; integrate public transport; and the management of train schedules and services to meet new trends in demand.

A spokesperson for the DfT said: “Our plan for rail sets out the biggest reforms to our railways in a generation, focused on passengers, ending a fragmented and unsustainable system and providing clear national leadership under one body, Great British Railways.

“Unprecedented taxpayer support for rail has kept services running, transporting vital cargo and medical supplies, transporting key workers, and protecting thousands of frontline jobs. This support came with rigorous scrutiny to protect the interests of taxpayers.

“Our proposals will ensure better value for taxpayers and a better deal for passengers – with affordable fares and the on-time, reliable service they deserve as people return to the railways. “

The deputies also criticize the DfT for its “piecemeal” approach to electrification, which the ministry admitted in its testimony to the committee had led to “extremely inefficient results in terms of cost”.

Some years in the past half century up to 600 km of track have been electrified, while in others the total is 10 km or less.

Darren Caplan, Managing Director of the Railway Industry Association, said: “As the committee points out, implementing a rolling work program without the ‘boom and bust’ investment profiles that we have experienced in the past, is a cost effective way to electrify the UK’s heavily used rail lines.

“This certainty will also help retain key skills and enable innovation, supporting green jobs and economic growth at this critical time.”

The committee asked the DfT to develop a long-term electrification plan.

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This notice was published: 2021-07-07 02:38:41

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