Train stations could be hived off in plan to split up Network Rail

Monday 25th May 2015

The private sector could end up managing 18 of the UK’s biggest train stations, including Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central, under reforms being considered by ministers.

The Treasury is understood to be particularly keen on splitting up the Network Rail empire, which was in effect renationalised last year. Ministers are apparently determined that Network Rail should focus on its core job of maintaining 20,000 miles of track.

The organisation has been heavily criticised of late, with problems including commuter chaos at London Bridge due to a disruptive station upgrade and a £53m fine for missed train punctuality targets as a result of maintenance overruns.

Network Rail also only narrowly averted a rail strike that was due to start on 25 May with a late revised pay offer, while there are concerns over a debt burden that could reach £50bn by the end of the decade.

As well as telecoms, which is likely to interest BT and Vodafone, Network Rail could be forced to bring in an energy utility or specialist provider to oversee its power supply. But outsourcing the management of its 18 train stations to a contractor such as Capita or possibly a property group, such as Land Securities, would be the most significant loss of prestige for Network Rail.

“There is pressure from the Treasury,” said an industry source. “They want to see what they can take out of Network Rail and they are looking at those three areas.”

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