Transport User Voice – November 2021 – The evolution of rail contracts

29 October 2021

Keeping the focus on passengers

Following the pandemic and the announcement of the new public body, Great British Railways, the way in which rail contracts are handled has changed dramatically. Transport Focus has been keeping an eye on the new arrangements as they begin to take shape to make sure that the most important part, the passenger, isn’t forgotten.

With fewer passengers travelling by rail during the pandemic, the Government introduced a range of emergency contracts to keep operators afloat and therefore maintain the services passengers depend on.

With those emergency agreements set to end in 2022, we have already begun to see new national rail contracts (NRCs) being rolled out. These incentivise operators to deliver good operational performance and high levels of customer service. There are also targets to maintain standards at stations and on trains. Transport Focus has been talking to Department of Transport (DfT) policy teams about what passengers want from rail services.

Transport Focus will attend the launch of the new passenger services contracts (PSCs). These are being launched to organisations interested in bidding in future competitions, replacing the previous franchise system as outlined in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.

Eventually, PSCs will replace all other DfT contracting arrangements too. We are continuing to talk to the DfT about passenger expectations and how our input to the PSCs can help ensure a strong customer focus.

The PSCs are expected to focus on running trains on time, delivering high levels of passenger service and controlling costs. They should:

  • meet passengers’ priorities and needs while growing rail usage
  • be deliverable and sustainable for the market, passengers, and funders
  • be value for money for passengers and funders
  • increase partnership work across the rail sector
  • reflect the needs of communities across the network.

More details can be found here.

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