Maria Eagle MP, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary, responding to publication of the Brown Review of the Rail Franchising Programme, said:
"This Government’s botched reforms to franchising have cost taxpayers tens of millions of pounds. Commuters who saw their fares go up by as much as nine per cent this month will be furious that no Minister has yet taken responsibility for the incompetence that led to this staggering waste of money. This is money that could have been used to keep fares down instead of being handed to private train companies to pay for the cost of their wasted franchise bids.
"The central conclusion of this independent review is that Ministers greatly increased the risks to taxpayers by moving to longer 15 year fixed-term franchises without any break clause or review. It is incredible that Ministers experimented with this risky new franchising policy on the most complex of contracts. It is even more shocking that they did so after carrying out a bizarre reorganisation of the DfT that saw no senior civil servant with responsibility for rail, a third of the Department’s staff axed and external financial scrutiny of contracts abandoned. The admission that Ministers will have to agree franchise extensions or management contracts while franchising is got back on track will see even further taxpayers money handed to train operators on top of the £45 million already wasted.
"The Government’s decision to focus this review so narrowly on franchising has missed a real opportunity to look more widely at whether alternative models could deliver a better deal for taxpayers and fare-payers. However, Ministers should accept the proposal that future franchises be devolved to partnerships of transport authorities in the regions with further devolution of services within London. This backs up the calls that Labour has made over the past year to give communities a greater say over rail services."