The European Union has wanted its members to open intercity rail to up to competition by the next decade. Things were moving steadily until the surprise 2016 vote which saw 52 percent of Britons wanting to leave the Union.
It is possible that in an ironic twist, Great Britain's impending exit from the EU has the potential of finishing what this June's results started: Ending competition and restoring British Rail. Here are the reasons why:
- The fragile Conservative-Democratic Unionist alliance isn't going to survive the next election now scheduled for 2022
- "Old Labour's" ideas have sustaining power and aren't going away, hence, more calls for renationalization and fewer people speaking out on the virtues of competition
- Once the UK is out of the EU, a competition averse Parliament is unlikely to let domestic entities like Virgin continue to run trains let alone foreign ones like MTR
Now is the time for more voices of intercity competition to speak out. Even though Britons complain about paying the highest fares for rates, here is a newspaper article that speaks out about what's gone right and where there's room for improvement.
Some passengers may roll their eyes when they read this based on their own experiences but last month’s National Rail Passenger Survey shows that many of these ambitions are now being delivered – on just one main line. At London King’s Cross the main train franchise, Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), faces stiff competition from two non-franchised high-speed ‘open access’ train operators on inter-city services between London, Yorkshire and the North East.What Mr. Lodge is saying is that open access is needed, not just multiple operators bidding for the right to run on a route the way it's currently done for commuter routes.
Grand Central and Hull Trains also came top on value for money, reliability, punctuality and getting a seat. The message is clear; when passengers have real choice, and train companies face competition on the same track, then operators raise their game. It is a clear and unarguable fact that they deliver better services at competitive fares because they have to fight for passengers. This rivalry has also delivered innovations such as free wi-fi, special flexible ticket deals and new routes as operators look to serve extra towns and cities to boost their offering.
I like to see all of the Amtrak apologists who are quick to point out all of the UK's flaws quip about the three-way among the operators serving the London-Yorkshire route. They need to stop defending the entity that is slow to adapt to changes and has made the passenger experience less comfortable over the last couple of years and begin thinking of what other operators could do to boost passenger service if they are only given a chance by the federal government.