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Coalition attacks 'hidden' plan to reward train companies for cutting services

3 May 2010
A Department for Transport plan to give train companies a financial incentive to cut services has come under attack.

Fifty organisations have signed a letter to Transport Secretary Lord Adonis saying the plan could have a very serious impact on passengers.

Cat Hobbs, from Campaign for Better Transport said: 'The Department is trying to pave the way for rail cuts. We've asked why this hidden proposal isn't subject to formal consultation and we've received no reply yet.'

'Passengers must be given the chance to comment when services are cut, and on this proposal. The Government must come clean if it is planning to cut services,' Hobbs said.

The groups have called on the DfT to consult formally on the proposal, disputing the allegation that it is only of 'technical interest' to the industry. (1)

The plans have been drawn up by Department for Transport officials for discussion with the rail industry, ahead of likely cuts in the Department's spending as a result of the forthcoming spending review.

The coalition letter argues the plan 'could encourage companies to run down or cut socially necessary services which don't make much money, but which people rely on'.(2)

The informal consultation document on the Department for Transport website says 'under the current process there is no incentive for operators to make sensible changes to services that are no longer justified'. It says 'The Department is therefore considering amending the current franchise agreement so that where operators propose sensible measures to reduce costs during their franchise term they will be rewarded by receiving a proportion of these savings'.

Jim Jenkins, Chair of Better Trains for Chepstow, said:  'We are strongly opposed to the move to reduce the protection of passenger franchises. Our experience is that the management of the franchises needs to be firmer. Our elected representatives and local communities need to have more control over our services, not less.'

Denis Fryer, South Hampshire Rail User Group, said: 'Lots of medium sized towns could have their services cut. This would make rail a much less attractive option for people. It could have a big impact on people who take the train to work.'

Eileen Conn, Southwark Rail Users' Group, said: 'We need a strong franchising process for the kinds of improvements we want to secure for our Cinderella local overground rail services in South London.'


Notes to editors

(1) The proposal has been introduced in 'The Future of Rail Franchising', an informal consultation document on the Department for Transport website.

(2) Here is the full text of the letter to Lord Adonis:

Rt Hon Lord Adonis
Secretary of State
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street

Copied to: Franchise Policy Team at the Department for Transport, Giada Covallero, Departmental

Consultation Co-ordinator, Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers, Shadow Transport Minister

Stephen Hammond, Shadow Transport Secretary Norman Baker

29 April 2010

Dear Lord Adonis,

Your department has published an informal consultation on 'The Future of Rail Franchising' which is said to be only of 'technical interest' to the industry.

This document proposes that train companies should be given a financial incentive to cut train services. We strongly object to this idea. It could encourage companies to run down or cut socially necessary services which don't make much money, but which people rely on. This would have a very serious impact on rail passengers.

We urge you to think again about this proposal and to give us and passengers the chance to comment on 'The Future of Rail Franchising' in a formal consultation.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Stephen Joseph

Executive Director
Campaign for Better Transport

On behalf of:


  • Campaign for Better Transport
  • Friends of the Earth
  • National Pensioners Convention
  • Railfuture
  • RMT
  • Transform Scotland
  • TSSA
  • Unison
  • Better Trains for Chepstow
  • Bricycles
  • Cambridge Friends of the Earth
  • Campaign Against New Beeching Report
  • Campaign against the Levels Motorway
  • Carno Station Action Group
  • Chelmsford Commuters And Rail Travellers
  • Coastliners Rail User Group
  • CPREssex
  • CycleSheffield
  • Essex Rail Users Federation
  • Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways
  • Greater Manchester Campaign for Free Public Transport
  • Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign
  • Kingskerswell Alliance
  • Lancashire Campaign for Better Transport
  • Leicestershire Campaign for Better Transport
  • London Campaign for Better Transport
  • More Train Less Strain
  • North East Combined Transport Activists Roundtable
  • Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group
  • Nottinghamshire Campaign for Better Transport
  • No Way! Group
  • Ontrack Rail Users' Association
  • Pedals
  • Portishead Railway Group
  • Salisbury Campaign for Better Transport
  • Save the Train
  • Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passenger Association
  • South East Essex Friends of the Earth
  • South East Forum for Sustainability
  • South Lakes Action on Climate Change - Towards Transition
  • South Hampshire Rail Users' Group
  • Southwark Rail Users Group
  • Staveley Green Travel Initiative
  • Sustainable Transport for the East of England Region
  • Stop Bristol Airport Expansion
  • Transition Exeter Transport Group
  • Transport Action Group – Manchester
  • West Midlands Campaign for Better Transport
  • Yorkshire Dales Public Transport Users Group
  • Yorkshire and the Humber Transport Roundtable