SEmG

Privatised Railways 1995-current day

From 1995 onwards the railways of Great Britain (other than those of privately preserved or industrial lines) returned to private ownership for the first time since 1947. The still-controversial model for privatisation by the British Conservative Party Government of the time involved separating the infrastructure from the running of services (with the service franchises being of a comparatively short term), and with rolling stock largely being owned by Leasing Companies. The whole rail network is overseen governmentally by the Rail Regulator and the Office for Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF), the latter being superseded in February 2001 by the Strategic Rail Authority. The infrastructure franchise was awarded to Railtrack PLC. In October 2001 Railtrack was placed into financial administration by the Labour Party Government of the time and its role was in March 2003 taken over by Network Rail, a state owned company limited by guarantee. So the railway infrastructure is effectively again in public ownership.

The privatised railway has yet to see a significant amount of innovation in the south of England, primarily due to the fact it has long been an intensively operated part of the network and thus there are capacity constraints. Some innovative services which were launched were the South Central Trains service from the Brighton line to Rugby via Kensington Olympia (subsequently cut back to Watford Junction due to capacity constraints on the West Coast main line) and Anglia Railways Norwich to Basingstoke service via the North London line which was subsequently withdrawn due to poor use and capacity constraints on the North London Line. Some other new services have been curtailed or withdrawn due to capacity constraints, for instance the South Central service from Victoria to Bournemouth now only runs to Southampton. Introduction of new rolling stock has been slow, due in part to the short term nature of the franchises, the complexities of modern microprocessor controlled stock causing delays, the need to update the power supply infrastructure to meet the heavy current draw of new stock and also the lengthy Safety Case regime.

Even in private hands the railway has been subjected to frequent changes in government policy. At one time longer franchises in return for much improved services and greater investment were proposed but in the event second round franchises have only been awarded for short periods. So common sense for a long term strategy has not prevailed and the railways of Britain are still being treated as a political football. However, the number of franchises is being reduced with larger regional franchises being created to have only one operator serving an area or London terminal. Contrarily this is being balanced by the proposal for a number of micro-franchises, also referred to as community railways, with local focus and lower cost structures hoped to be the way to keep uneconomic rural branches open.

There follows details of passenger Train Operating Companies (TOCs) who currently, or have in the past, run services on the area of the former Southern Railway/Southern Region:

Alphaline Wales and West

(services from Wales and the West to the south coast and Waterloo)

Wales and West Passenger Trains Ltd.
Originally owned by Prism Rail Plc, sold to National express Group Plc.
Franchise commenced 13th October 1996 for a 7½ year term. In 2001 this franchise was split by the SRA into two franchises in preparation for the creation of two regional franchises - Wales and Borders and Wessex. (please see respective entries).
Anglia

(Innovative "open access" Norwich to Basingstoke service from May 2000 until the end of the summer 2002 timetable. Service terminated due to poor financial results and congestion on the North London Line.)

Anglia Railways Train Services Ltd.
Owned by GB Railways Plc.and from 2003 by the First Group.
Franchise commenced 5th January 1997 for a 7¼ year term. From 1 April 2004 the Anglia franchise is subsumed by the new regional Greater Anglia Franchise awarded to the National Express Group. This franchise no longer provides services in the "Southern" area.
Gatwick Express Gatwick Express Railway Ltd.
Owned by  National Express Group Plc.
Franchise commenced 28th April 1996 for a 15 year term.
Franchise expires May 2011.
Island Line Island Line Ltd.
Owned by Stagecoach Holdings Plc.
Franchise commenced 13th October 1996 for a 5 year term. Franchise extended by almost two years to 27th September 2003.  and then again through to February 2007. It is unlikely this franchise will then continue in its current form as it is a candidate to become a community railway/micro-franchise. Uniquely this franchise is also responsible for maintaining the infrastructure even though it is owned by Railtrack/Network Rail.
New Southern Railway
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New Southern Railway.
Owned by Govia Ltd.
Franchise from mid 2003 to December 2009.
Initially South Central Trains, from May 2004 the operating name for the second term franchise for the South Central area awarded in October 2000 to Govia Ltd for commencement in 2003. See South Central Trains.
Silverlink (operates over the line between Richmond and Gunnersbury formerly owned by LSWR)
Silverlink Train Services Ltd.
Owned by  National Express Group Plc.
Franchise commenced 2nd March 1997 for a 7½ year term.
South Central Trains South Central Limited.
Owned by Govia Ltd.
The first term franchise was operated by Connex who in 2000 did not secure a second term. On 24th October 2000 the second term was awarded instead to Govia. Connex did not want to continue to run the full term of the franchise so in August 2001 Govia bought Connex out of the last two years. Commencing at 2am on 26th August 2001 Govia ran an interim franchise as South Central Trains. Govia's second term franchise has been relaunched as the New Southern Railway. See New Southern Railway.
South Eastern Trains
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South Eastern Trains, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Strategic Rail Authority.
The service for this area was originally run by Connex on a 15 year franchise. However, on 9th November 2003, after just 7 years, the SRA removed the franchise from Connex due to alleged financial mismanagement.
The SRA is seeking a new franchisee to take over the lines from 2005, which will be part of a new "Integrated Kent Franchise" (incorporating, from 2007, high speed domestic services on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link).
This was the second time Connex had lost a franchise, the first to be lost being Connex South Central. Connex no longer run any railway operations in the United Kingdom.
South West Trains South West Trains Ltd.
Owned by Stagecoach Holdings Plc.
First term franchise commenced 4th February 1996 for a 7 year term. The second term was originally due to run for 20 years but due to (yet another) change of policy by the SRA it now only runs to February 2007, albeit with the possibility of a 5 year extension.
Thameslink Thameslink Rail Ltd.
Owned by Govia Ltd.
Franchise commenced 2nd March 1997 for a 7 year 1 month term. The SRA are not going to renew this franchise due to extended delays in the Thameslink 2000 (now 20xx) project. Instead the franchise has been extended until 2006. It is expected, as part of the Thameslink 20xx project, that this franchise will gain Great Northern services formerly part of WAGN but from 1st April 2004 run as an interim Great Northern franchise.
Thames Trains (Reading - Tonbridge via Gatwick Airport service.) Thames Trains Ltd.
Originally owned by Victory Railways Holdings Ltd sold to the Go-Ahead Group Plc.
Franchise commenced 13th October 1996 for a 7½ year term. From April 2004 First Great Western will take over the franchise for two years in preparation for a new Greater Western franchise.
Virgin Cross Country Cross Country Trains Ltd.
Owned by Virgin Trains Ltd.
Franchise commenced 5th January 1997 for a 15 year term.
Wales and Borders

(services from Wales to Waterloo which cease with the Summer 2004 timetable.)

Arriva Trains Wales.
Owned by the Arriva Group.
This is a second term, now regional, franchise running through to 2018. The first term (13th October 1996 for 7½ years) was run as Alphaline Wales and West by Wales and West Passenger Trains Ltd, originally owned by Prism Rail Plc. and then sold to the National Express Group. In 2001 this money losing franchise was split by the SRA into two franchises in preparation for the creation of two regional franchises - Wales and Borders and Wessex - both being run by NEG until the end of the first term. The new Welsh regional franchise was awarded to the Arriva Group.
Wessex

(services from Wales and the west country to the south coast.)

Wessex Trains.
Owned by the National Express Group.
This is now an interim franchise running until March 2006. After this its services will be incorporated into the new Greater Western franchise. This represents (another) change of plan by the SRA because Wessex was originally slated to become a regional franchise in its own right additionally incorporating the Waterloo-Exeter service currently run by South West Trains.
The first term (13th October 1996 for 7½ years) was run as Alphaline Wales and West by Wales and West Passenger Trains Ltd, originally owned by Prism Rail Plc. and then sold to the National Express Group. In 2001 this money losing franchise was split by the SRA into two franchises - Wales and Borders and Wessex - both being run by NEG until the end of the first term.

Hyperlinks or other contact information for these TOCs can be found on the SEmG links TOCs' page.

Eurostar

Eurostar services are run by London and Continental Railways and are not part of the franchising structure. They now run on the first part of the dedicated Channel Tunnel Rail Link through Kent.

One significant factor of the privatised railway is the very much improved access for excursion, special and niche train operation, and also the multiplicity of rolling stock providers. The concept of owning and running a niche service was perhaps pioneered whilst the rail network was still under British Railways administration by the Venice Simplon Orient Express, who continue to operate luxury specials.  However other existing charter operators, who struggled to get service from British Rail, and also new operators into the field, can now readily either own or hire stock (from more than one source!) for their services.

 
Major Rolling Stock Leasing Companies (ROSCOs) owned by:
Angel Royal Bank of Scotland
Eversholt HSBC
Porterbrook was Stagecoach Holdings, sold to Abbey National Bank, became Abbey Bank, now Santander.
 
Freight Operations
The four main freight haulers on the privatised railway are:
DRS Direct Rail Services
EWS English Welsh and Scottish
Freightliner  
GBRf Great Britain Rail freight

Discussions on forming the private freight company "Direct Rail Services" began in 1993 as an in-house carrier to transport nuclear chemicals to and from nuclear power stations. DRS subsequently became an "open access" freight carrier competing with EWS and Freightliner. DRS operates Class 20, Class 37, Class 33 and Class 66 diesel locomotives and their main terminal on the Southern region is at Dungeness in Kent (serving the nuclear power station).

A large portion of BR's freight operation was purchased in February 1996 by an international consortium and then quickly merged together to form "EWS". Railfreight Distribution (RfD), the last part of BR's freight divisions, was taken over by EWS in 1997.

The original "Freightliner" section of BR's freight operations, was privatised on 29th May 1996. Originally based on rail born container traffic Freightliner now has a heavy haul division in direct competition with EWS.

Great Britain Rail freight is the newest and arguably the most innovative FOC. GBRf operates a number of infrastructure services for Network Rail, including use of former Gatwick Express class 73/2 locomotives in Kent.

Mendip Rail, being the combined rail operations of Yeoman and Hanson aggregate industries, also operates over Southern metals.

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This page was last updated 13 July 2004

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