UK has 'second tier' railways


Britain's railways are in a second tier behind other European networks because of high fares, poor punctuality and a lack of high speed rail, according to a study.

The research also found that rail services in Switzerland, Germany, France and the Netherlands - which have a large amount of nationalised operation - provide relatively high value for the public funding they receive.

A number of state-owned operators from those countries own franchises to run Britain's railways and have been accused by campaign groups of using the profits they make to hold down fares and improve services across the rest of Europe.

Britain's value for money rating was found to be average.

The report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) examined the railways of 25 nations across the Continent.

Researchers placed France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden in the top tier overall.

Britain was classified behind this group after it scored poorly in terms of quality of service.

It was tied with Denmark for the highest safety rating but its intensity of use was marked as just "good" because of the low level of freight transportation.

This left Britain in the second tier overall alongside countries such as the Czech Republic, Italy and Norway.

With a maximum score of 10, Switzerland came top with 7.1 while Britain recorded just 5.6.

A study by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) published last year claimed foreign companies own around three-quarters of the UK's rail contracts and were "sucking out" profits to help their own services.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash described it as an "outrageous situation".

The latest punctuality figures released by Network Rail show that more than one tenth of trains arrived at least five minutes late in the past year.

Passengers travelling on Govia Thameslink had to put up with just over 17% of services being late, while the figure for Virgin Trains West Coast was almost 15%.

The Government recently announced that regulated fares will go up by 1% in January.

The 2016 increase will be the lowest since 2010, but in the following five years annual rises have been between 2.5% and 6%.

The BCG study, entitled the 2015 European Railway Performance Index, was released in May.