Train companies pay back record premiums but Network Rail grant is also up
Franchised train operating companies contributed a record £802.2m in 2014-15 (2013-14: £40.1m) according to ORR’s latest annual statistical release. This sum is the difference between the £1,529m paid out in premiums by the TOCs and the £727m they get in subsidies. It’s the fifth consecutive year that premiums have exceeded subsidy payments.
ORR figures also show that total government support for the rail industry fell 9% to £4.796bn (2013-14: £5.287bn), but that the direct grant to Network Rail – the largest single item of expenditure -increased 10.1% to £3.802bn (2013-14: £3.453bn).
Crossrail expenditure was 2.4% down at £1.097bn (2013-14: £1.124bn), and PTE grants were slashed 32.4% to £123m (2013-14: £182m), though miscellaneous expenditure – which covers various ad hoc rail projects –increased 1.4% to £576m (2013-14: £568m).
The total government support figure of £4.796bn, however, does not include the £6.369bn net DfT loan to Network Rail (brought about by its change in status and reclassification as part of the public sector). The figure also excludes the £18m freight grant (up £1m).
11 TOCs (strictly 13, as two franchises changed hands during 2014-15) paid premiums and eight received subsidises. The premium paying TOCs were (in rank order): South West Trains (£374.3m); East Coast (£266.7m); Southern (£187.4m); Greater Anglia (£187.1m); Thameslink (£179.8m); Virgin Train West Coast (£93.7m); East Midlands Trains (£82.6m); First Great Western (£62.1m); Cross Country (£47.3m); Chiltern Railways (£30.2m); and c2c (£18.0m).
The East Coast premium aggregates those of state-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR) and its Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) successor. Likewise, the Thameslink result combines the First Capital Connect (FCC) and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) premiums. (The East Coast and Thameslink being the two franchises that were re-awarded to different franchisees during the year).
The TOCs in receipt of subsidises were: First ScotRail (£261.1m); Northern Rail (£112.7m); Arriva Trains Wales (£101.9m); Merseyrail (£86.2m); London Midland (£62.9m); First TransPennine Express (£43.5m); Southeastern (£32.5m); and London Overground (£26.1m).
The best premiums (in terms of pence per passenger kilometre) were: South West Trains (6.0p); East Coast, (DOR & VTEC combined) (5.0p); and Thameslink (FCC & GTR combined), (4.5p). The most costly subsidises went to Merseyrail (12.4p); First ScotRail (8.6p); and Arriva Trains Wales (8.5p).
Grants were down for all five English PTEs: Mersey Travel £9.2m (2013-14: £ 15.1m); Metro (West Yorkshire) £43.2m (2013-14: £64.2m); Nexus (Tyne & Wear) £3.4m (£4.4m); Transport for Greater Manchester £48.2m (2013-14: £71.3m); and Travel South Yorkshire £18.8m (2013-14: £27.6m). The sixth English PTE, Centro (West Midlands), has received no grant since 2010-11.
Excluding Network Rail, total private rail investment came to £647m (2013-14: £423m), the highest in real terms since 2007-08 when it reached £654m. It included a record £715m spend on rolling stock (2013-14: £323m), mainly due to new locomotives leased to TOCs. This figure was partly offset by the £128m sale of station assets, the first time since 2006-07 (when ORR started compiling such statistics), that station sale proceeds outstripped investment in stations. An additional £4,440bn was realised (mainly) through the sale of privately-owned rail freight yards to Network Rail.