TRAIN passengers will be able to choose which rail company they use for their journeys under a new competitive system – that could see rival firms running the same routes.
Some experts say the move might end up dramatically shaking-up the industry – resembling how the explosion of budget airlines revolutionised air travel.
The changes are being introduced to the rail network from April, and will allow different operators to compete against each other for passengers on the same sections of line.
Bosses at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) regulator hope the new system may cut fares, increase train numbers, and encourage innovation and better quality services.
Franchise operators with government contracts could end up competing directly against “open-access” operators, which would have to pay a bigger share of the costs for the railway’s upkeep in return.
And the Competition and Markets Authority backed the move – suggesting that allowing open-access operators on the railways would have a similar impact to the one seen in the airline industry.
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But ORR’s senior manager for competition economics, Beth Tasker, warned that operators were likely to cherry-pick only the most profitable routes.
“Our policy must take this into account.”
Rail fares are due to rise by an average of 3.1 per cent in the New Year.
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