How to Make Long-Distance Work: Fixing Britain’s railways with open access

A new report by Adrian Quine, rail consultant and journalist, and Sophie Jarvis, Head of Government at the ASI, calls for the abolition of the current monopoly franchise system for trains and replacement with an Open Access system:

  • Open Access, by enabling competition between operators on the same route, drives down costs and ticket prices, improves passenger satisfaction, increases frequency, and encourages innovation. 

  • Fares are up to 55% cheaper on routes on Open Access routes compared to where a single monopoly franchise operates.

  • Open Access operators have the highest level of passanger satisfaction. Open Access operator Grand Central has had the largest increase of passengers of any train company, up 12% over 2017-18, discluding Transport for London services.

  • Under Open Access new routes have been opened by operators, giving smaller stations direct, fast, long-distance services without the need to change trains. These new rail destinations drive economic growth, social mobility and wider prosperity.

  • The running costs of Open Access operators is lower than the heavily unionised monopoly franchise operators, resulting in lower passenger fares.

  • In order to expand rail competition, this paper In order to expand rail competition, this paper recommends:

    • 1. Abolishing the current monopoly franchise system for long distance rail routes and replacement with an Open Access system.

    • 2. In the meantime, the creation a level playing field between Open Access and monopoly franchise operators by:

      • a. Abolishing the Not Primarily Abstractive (NPA) test, which limits which tracks Open Access operators can use. 

      • b. Introducing parity between the track access charges for monopoly franchise operators and the open access operators. 

    • 3. Reverse auctions to allocate operators and decide the subsidy level for less profitable stations.