27th Mar 2020
The government has promised that commuters with rail season tickets are set to receive a refund if they are staying at home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said the government will “ensure no-one is unfairly out of pocket for doing the right thing”.
This includes the companies operating the train services, which costs around £12 billion a year.
The COVID-19 outbreak, however, has caused a 70% drop in passengers and a two-thirds drop in ticket sales, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).
In response, to stop these firms from going under, the DfT has suspended all rail franchise agreements, which dictate the number of trains running, restrictions on ticket charges and the requirement for operators to pay the government for use of parts of the rail network.
The money from commuter fares will instead go to the government, who will take on the responsibility of sustaining rail operators, with a significant cash injection.
“We are taking this action to protect the key workers who depend on our railways to carry on their vital roles, the hardworking commuters who have radically altered their lives to combat the spread of coronavirus, and the frontline rail staff who are keeping the country moving,” said Shapps.
Train operators will still benefit from a “small pre-determined management fee”, said the DfT, as the rail network continues to operate – albeit with reduced services – to support key workers.
“While we need to finalise the details, this will ensure that train companies can focus all their efforts on delivering a vital service at a time of national need,” said Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group.