Train operators make bid for partnership role

Train operating companies have launched a new organisation, designed to emphasise the role of the private sector when Great British Railways takes over in 2024.

Rail Partners is a partial replacement for the Rail Delivery Group, while the rest of the RDG’s functions, such as managing the National Rail website and Staff Travel, will move to Great British Railways.

At the launch, the members of Rail Partners called for a ‘reinvigorated public private partnership’, because GBR envisages a subsidiary place for passenger operators as tightly-controlled concessions, with comparatively little commercial freedom.

They said the expertise of the private companies ‘can deliver for passengers, freight customers and the economy’.

A prospectus called Working Together for a Better Railway sets out five priority areas for reform ‘to create a thriving railway that will benefit passengers and freight customers as well as the clients who commission services and taxpayers’.

Rail Partners chief executive Andy Bagnall was previously chief strategy officer at the Rail Delivery Group. He said: ‘The industrial turbulence we are seeing on our railways at the moment only serves to highlight the need to secure a sustainable network for the future. Our members have previously restored our railway’s finances, driving up passenger numbers, introducing new trains and overseeing a renaissance of both the passenger and freight railway.

‘As we emerge from the pandemic, the expertise, innovation, and appetite exist within the private sector to replicate and surpass this previous success.

‘Rail Partners and its members share the government’s ambition for rail. To make it a reality, we need a renewed, improved and reinvigorated public private partnership, where operators are empowered to do what they do best, not only in the interests of the industry and its people, but to the benefit of the nation as a whole.’