August 7, 2015 Print

Market competition brings lower costs, better quality, greater efficiency, and consumer satisfaction. This is no less true of railways than other goods and services, but government agencies often suppresses rail competition. A new paper from the United Kingdom’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) acknowledges points that Atlas Network partner the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) has been making for years about the dangers of the monopolistic franchise structure of U.K. rail services, and the need for competitive reform to create efficient new transportation options.

In a landmark 2013 study, “Rail’s second chance: Putting competition back on track,” CPS laid out a rigorous case for U.K. rail competition, both examining the benefits of opening rail markets to new entrants and explaining the public-sector incentive structure that keeps increasing rail subsidies, passing stifling transportation regulations, and protecting entrenched rail interests at the expense of consumers and broader industrial efficiency.

The CMA government report acknowledging the benefits of rail competition comes on the heels of that CPS study, which it cites as a source, and the remarkable amount of media attention that CPS garnered for its work, including from BBC NewsThe TimesThe Independent, and The Telegraph.

“We set out in 2013 to deliver an evidence based study to show that a more competitive railway could deliver lower fares, more routes, happier passengers, higher revenues and more passenger choice,” Tony Lodge, CPS research fellow and author of "Rail’s second chance," said in a press release. “Where there is limited open access competition with franchises (on the East Coast Main Line) then fares are lower, passengers are happier, more routes are served and revenues are higher. In short the passenger enjoys competition and choice. The CMA report is a victory for passengers; its running theme that competition is long overdue and must be delivered is a wake up call for the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).”

CPS also released a short and engaging video summarizing its arguments for rail competition.

Read “Rail’s second chance: Putting competition back on track.”

Read “Competition in passenger rail services in Great Britain.”

Read “Look east: there is a way to cheaper rail fares.”

Read “Abolish ORR and increase open access.”

Watch “Rail’s 2nd Chance.”