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Tony Lodge on Rail Franchise

    Research fellow Tony Lodge heads debate on rail franchising, Monday 22 April 2013.

    To see full debate, vist the Guardian website

    "You are right to highlight that the east coast mainline rail franchise is the most efficiently run in terms of its reliance on taxpayer funding, but you fail to explain why (Report, 19 April). Crucially, the east coast mainline, between King's Cross and Scotland, is the only line where the franchise holder, East Coast, has to compete with non-franchised railway companies – known as open access – for passengers.

    New research this month from the Centre for Policy Studies shows East Coast passenger journeys increased by 42% at those stations which enjoy rail competition, compared with 27% for those without competition; revenue increased by 57% where competition occurs, compared with 48% for those without; and, perhaps most importantly for the passenger, average fares increased by only 11% on those stations with competition, compared to 17% at those stations without. Those companies that compete with East Coast – Grand Central and First Hull Trains – have also just recorded the highest passenger satisfaction statistics of all UK train companies.

    As a result of this competition, more passengers have been attracted to the railway and East Coast has been able to pay a year-on-year increase in its premium to government. But while there is some open access rail competition on the east coast main line, the west coast long-distance rail franchise, operated by Virgin, faces none. More rail competition is in the interests of the passenger, the taxpayer, the government and the regions. Following last year's rail franchise collapse, the government should now move to support more open access rail competition, alongside franchises, and not support a policy which risks delivering subsidy-hungry "railopolies", 20 years on since Conservative railway privatisation."

    To see full debate, vist the Guardian website

    Watch our short animation of the benefits of on-rail open access competition:

    Date added: Tuesday 23rd April 2013