A new rail industry report published today outlines the need for greater competition on the UK rail network through the expansion of Open Access operations. Open Access rail operators are not subject to franchising, and instead purchase individual slots from a rail infrastructure company delivering the benefits of greater competition to users.
Published by the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC), the organisation whose membership books 80 per cent of business travel in the UK, the ‘Open Access – business traveller benefits from genuine rail competition’ report calls for all three main political parties to commit to supporting Open Access.
In addition, the GTMC also asks for the Department for Transport and Office of Rail Regulation to drop their opposition to new long distance Open Access rail services.
Paul Wait, chief executive of the GTMC explains: “We firmly believe that greater competition within the UK rail network will make a positive contribution to rail ticket prices, the connectivity of towns not currently served by mainline services and the ability of business travellers to work through their journey, In turn this will support business efficiency and productivity thereby directly supporting business and economic growth across the country, particularly in the regions.”
“Our unique insight into the requirements of the business traveller – of which rail travel is an intrinsic part – means we are acutely aware of the need for the rail network to evolve and further satisfy the criteria of cost, convenience and productivity, all of which dictate the choice of the business traveller.”
“Historically there has been reluctance within government to support the development of Open Access to lines beyond the East Coast Main Line. We are calling for the Government to reconsider this position and implement a wider application of open access that will benefit not only the business traveller and as a consequence the UK economy.”
The report will be presented at a roundtable parliamentary dinner at the House of Commons this evening attended by Paul Wait, chief executive of the GTMC and Chaired by Paul Maynard MP (PPS to the Minister of State for Policy).
Commenting on the report Paul Maynard said, “I’m delighted that the GTMC is raising the important issue of increasing competition on the UK rail network by supporting more Open Access operations. It is vitally important that the voice of the business traveller is heard in discussions over the future shape of our transport system.”
“There are clear benefits for business travellers in terms of cost, connectivity and productivity from Open Access operators competing against incumbent franchisees. The ability of Open Access operations to provide direct connections for towns that have hitherto not enjoyed these is an example of the types of innovation that competition on the rail network can deliver. Indeed my constituency still has no direct links into London and the prospect of an Open Access operator putting these in place, replicating the benefits enjoyed by places like Sunderland and Bradford, is something that would be a real boost to the local business community. I look forward to the debate that the GTMC report will trigger.”
Recent research by the GTMC reiterates the importance Open Access within the business travel community. From a survey of 1,000 business travellers, 74% expressed support for two rail companies competing on the same line. It is the GTMC’s ambition that government will recognise the significance of this issue both to business travellers and the economy and the benefits that Open Access would bring to both.
Unlike rail franchises, open access train operators do not rely on subsidies from the Department for Transport or pay a premium to the Government. Rather they work with the Office of Rail Regulation to purchase individual mainline slots from a railway infrastructure provider. As a result open access operators can directly drive competition in the UK rail sector, bringing with it a number of benefits for the business traveller, including competitive pricing and expansion of routes outside of the UK’s biggest cities.
As part of its support for the development of open access operations across the UK rail network the GTMC report makes the four following key recommendations:
· The Department for Transport and Office of Rail Regulation to drop their opposition to new long distance open access services
· The Department for Transport should consider amends to the franchising system to eliminate Moderation of Competition clauses from Track Access Contracts that work against Open Access operators
· The GTMC encourages all political parties to work collaboratively to support Open Access operator applications to a risk averse regulator and Department for Transport
· The GTMC urges all of the three main parties to have an explicit commitment to supporting more Open Access services in their 2015 General Election manifestos
Representing a diverse range of travel management companies – from global companies to small independent specialists and top regional agencies – the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) is the voice of business travel and acts to lobby those who have an impact on the business travel community, together with promoting the activities of its members as the best in quality and value to the business traveller.