Passenger Power – should passengers decide who keeps franchises?

15 March 2013

Imagine. Peter Fahy commutes every day from Fleet in Hampshire to London Waterloo. Peter travels with South West Trains ten times a week. Assuming he works around 45 weeks a year, allowing for leave and sickness, he experiences the service about 450 times a year. His rail-only annual season ticket now costs £3,520. Peter has just taken part in an online poll about the possible extension of the franchise for another three years. Who better could be placed to judge whether or not the train company should keep the franchise?

Far fetched? Perhaps, but in the current debates about the future of franchising one thing is clear – the voice of the passenger should get a boost. Any new system has to work for passengers, taxpayers, the Government and the private sector. Keeping all parties happy is going to be difficult unless the new system is radically refocused on the needs and voice of what is now the rail industry’s principal source of funding – the passenger. While you can argue about what financing is included and what is not, it is clear the journey towards the railways becoming funded principally by its users has moved along quickly.

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