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Release Date:
Release ID: 4351

Franchise reform should benefit rail freight as well.

ATOC’s publication ‘Franchise Reform - a better railway for passengers and taxpayers’ only tells half the story. Whilst RFG agrees that franchising can, and should, be improved, this should not be to the detriment of other open access operators who are not backed by Government.

Longer, output based franchises may be appropriate, but in determining the specification of passenger services, freight outputs must also be considered. ATOC members have recently blocked an industry attempt to specify strategic freight capacity on key routes, yet now wish to have exactly that for their own services. It may be time to review how capacity is allocated on the most congested sections of the mixed traffic network, but this must be done by an independent party such as Network Rail or ORR not by Government or the franchises it funds.

RFG also opposes the suggestion that variable charges should be higher for freight operators. Unlike franchised operators, such increases are not passed back to Government and would have to be borne by the operators in full, reducing their ability to win traffic from road.

Speaking today, RFG Chairman Tony Berkeley said ‘Changes to the franchising process may offer benefits to the passenger industry, but must not be to the detriment of freight services. Let us look for reforms which benefit all operators and customers of the rail network, not just those who are members of ATOC’.

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