Government fails UK rail businesses

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The government is failing UK rail businesses because it has gone soft on a key element of European railway liberalisation, the Rail Freight Group has warned.

RFG chairman, Tony Berkeley said: “UK companies seeking to operate in continental Europe often find their way is blocked by incumbent operators, and have no one to complain to.”

These fears are the result of a UK government briefing paper sent to the European Transport Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament which seems to contravene the principle that the infrastructure manager should be totally separate in all ways from train operators.

Berkeley argued: “One of the central tenets of this has been the total separation, in legal, administrative and operational terms, of train operators from the rail infrastructure on which they operate. This has enabled each operator to have equal access to track and to many terminals and, coupled with a fully independent regulatory body, it has enabled competition to develop and, in turn, for freight volumes to grow by 60 per cent.

“In other states, where a traditional nationalised rail network exists, there has actually often been a reduction in rail freight volumes. UK and other companies seeking to operate in these member states can only wish that similar liberalisation was happening there, but it is only more recently that the Commission has been able to bring in legislation for this total separation, in spite of strong opposition led by the German government,” he said.

“I thought that the government was in favour of export-led recovery; this is certainly not the way to achieve it on the railways.”

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