Longer franchises not a solution says rail union

30 October 2009

Keith Norman says the call today by The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) for radically longer rail franchises of up to two decades would do nothing to solve current problems. ASLEF’s general secretary said, ‘I can’t see that extending the length of franchises would make a jot of difference. It certainly isn’t the solution to the bedlam of the current system.’


Keith argues

  • that the stated objective of government is to provide competition. Franchising does not do this. It simply created monopolies on particular routes – something it was supposed to stop!
  • if franchising doesn’t work in seven-year segments, what is the point of extending the period and making the mistake bigger and longer? Longer franchises would only entrench the obvious limitations of the existing system
  • the franchise firms aren’t proper railway companies and don’t have money to invest
  • that one objection to franchises is that they go off the boil in the final years of the franchise. If they are extended, they will have years of complacency at the beginning as well as the end
  • railways need long-term centralised planning – not more decentralisation.
  • giving train companies more flexibility could allow them to cut services to save money at times of recession


ATOC argues that longer franchises could attract more private finance as operators would have more time to benefit from investment and allow managers to focus on improving services rather than concentrating on bidding for the next franchise. It also objects to ‘inappropriate micro-management’ by civil servants.


‘The public doesn’t have a great store of trust in the franchising companies, for good reasons,’ Keith says. ‘So it would be deeply unpopular to extend their control over our industry. Why don’t investors get on with investing and leave rail specialist to run the railway?’

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