Access Pricing in the Railway System: Problems and Possible Solutions
COLE S and HOLVAD T, University of North London, UK
The passing into law of tile 1993 Railways Act signified one of tile most radical periods of upheaval in the railway industry in Britain for nearly forty years. The most significant change engendered by the Act, is the separation of infrastructure managem
The passing into law of tile 1993 Railways Act signified one of tile most radical periods of upheaval in the railway industry in Britain for nearly forty years. The most significant change engendered by the Act, is the separation of infrastructure management and provision, from the operation of train services, or in the vernacular of the professional, the process of vertical separation. A privately-owned company, Railtrack, owns and manages the vast majority of track, signalling and other operational infrastructure. Railtrack also owns, and hopes to mazdmise the income from, the former property portfolio of British Rail, including stations, operational railway land, buildings and installations. Although, its primary responsibility will be the operation of the track and the provision of access rights, together with an appropriate charge, to the train operating companies, subject to the approval of the Rail Regulator. This reorganisation is only the most recent in a long line of upheavals, usually furthered in a bid to improve profitability, accountability or efficiency, within the perceived anachronism of a subsidised public-sector railway operator. It is, of course, axiomatic that this latest policy will succeed where the others have failed. The implicit irony is that the traditional perception of success in this context, the delivery of substantial reductions in public support for the railways, is now, at a time of increasing concern over the growth in road transport and its concomitant environmental problems, inimical to the broader needs of society.
This paper provides a brief review of the new access pricing system for Britain's railways. It identifies a number of issues within this system that appear to conflict, either with the specified objectives of the access pricing system, or with the more general objectives of rail privatisation. Possible solutions are proposed which could provide an improved access pricing framework.
Association for European Transport