The government is being urged to extend financial help for train operators, which has already cost some £3.5 billion, into 2021 to help them ride out the virus crisis.
Passenger numbers industry-wide have been hammered since March by travel restrictions during the Covid-19 lockdown, as people were urged to work from home where possible.
Train operators are now in talks with the government about extending existing ‘emergency measures agreements’, first announced in March and due to expire in September, for 12-18 months, The Financial Times reported.
Any extension to help could benefit a number of rail companies, including FirstGroup, which runs the GWR trains out of Paddington to Wales and the West Country.
The March agreements, aimed at keeping trains running for key workers, involved changes to franchise agreements, transferring all revenue and cost risk to the government.
Operators instead run day-to-day services for a small, pre-determined management fee.
John Thomas, director of policy at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the UK’s rail operators, told the Evening Standard today: “We want to work together with government to evolve the current arrangements as we emerge from the crisis to ensure a reformed railway can work for passengers, support jobs, connect communities and help the economy grow.”
This week rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said that since the outbreak of Covid-19, the government has approved £3.5 billion of additional expenditure to ensure that vital rail services continue to operate.
He said: “Of this additional expenditure, £2.9 billion relates to the 2020/21 financial year. It is not yet possible to provide an estimate of the total cost incurred to date.”