Taxpayers to foot £3.5billion rail bailout bill as train firms struggle in wake of COVID

Taxpayers to foot £3.5billion rail bailout bill as train firms struggle in wake of COVID

And that is expected to rise, as shutdowns continue to plague the UK economy. Rail industry executives continue to ask the government for more money. Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said in a written parliamentary answer: “Since the outbreak of COVID-19 the government has approved £3.5billion of additional expenditure to ensure that vital rail services continue to operate.

“Of this additional expenditure, £2.9billion relates to the 2020/21 financial year. It is not yet possible to provide an estimate of the total cost incurred to date.”

“A proportion of the fee will be conditional on operators meeting performance, passenger experience and efficiency targets,” he added.

At present emergency measures run to September, and there’s not telling how much extra the industry will need as people avoid all but essential travel.

The government suspended the rail franchise system in March, as passenger numbers plunged in lockdown.

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This effectively nationalised losses by train companies for six months.

Revenue risks were transferred to the state and the deal has potential to be extended, ministers said.

This could be extended, increasing the burden on taxpayers.

Alongside this, lobbying groups backing full re-nationalisation claim rail bosses have asked for the measures to reach to 2021.

Reviews are currently underway for the two-metre social distancing rules.

The next stage of lockdown easing in the UK is touted for 4th July.

If measures are reduced to one metre, trains will return to about 45 percent capacity, according to industry estimates.

Published at Thu, 18 Jun 2020 12:58:00 +0000