Rail operators offered agreement suspension to avoid “significant disruption”

Class 390 at Crewe
Credit: RailAdvent

The Department for Transport has announced that it is giving rail franchises the opportunity to transition to an Emergency Measures Agreement.

This will give them the opportunity to suspend agreements and transfer all revenue and cost to the government for an initial period of six months.

Operators will continue to run the day to day operations for a small management fee.

This will make sure that trains keep running for key workers and other essential travel.

Passengers who have an advance ticket will be able to refund it for free. Additionally, season ticket holders can claim a refund for the time not used on their tickets.

Train operators have seen a drop of 70% in passenger numbers. Revenue has also reduced as more people work from home, with ticket sales down by two-thirds from 2019.

Fees will be set at a maximum of 2 per cent of the cost base of the franchise before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

If an operator does not want to accept an Emergency Measures Agreement, the Government’s Operator of Last Resort stands ready to step in.

What did the officials say?

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said:

“We are taking this action to protect the key workers who depend on our railways to carry on their vital roles, the hardworking commuters who have radically altered their lives to combat the spread of coronavirus, and the frontline rail staff who are keeping the country moving.

“People deserve certainty that the services they need will run or that their job is not at risk in these unprecedented times. We are also helping passengers get refunds on Advance tickets to ensure no-one is unfairly out of pocket for doing the right thing.

“These offers will give operators the confidence and certainty so they can play their part in the national interest.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said:

“The rail industry is working together so that people and goods can keep making essential journeys during this unprecedented national challenge, getting key workers to hospitals, food to shops and fuel to power stations.

“The industry strongly welcomes the Department for Transport’s offer of temporary support and while we need to finalise the details, this will ensure that train companies can focus all their efforts on delivering a vital service at a time of national need.

“We would like to thank our people, who continue to do an incredible job in difficult circumstances.”

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