Rail firm payments show huge disparity, official figures show

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NEW figures have revealed startling disparities in the amount of money that different rail firms receive from the Government to operate services.

Overall, the public purse pumped £2.3bn into the rail system in 2013-14 – down from £3.2bn in 2009-10 as Whitehall shifted more of the financial burden of running the country’s trains to passengers.

According to the Department for Transport figures, the most heavily subsidised operator last year was Northern Rail, which received a net injection of £707m – equivalent to a subsidy per passenger mile of 51.5p.

However, other operators made tens of millions of pounds for the taxpayer. First Capital Connect returned a surplus of £93.7m, 3.9p for every passenger mile travelled.

London-to-Yorkshire operator East Coast, which was nationalised in 2009, recorded a £19.9m surplus, equivalent to 0.6p per passenger mile. The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “Phenomenal growth in rail passengers is helping train operators to pay £2bn a year back to government – five times more than 15 years ago – with government choosing to reinvest this money in further improving Europe’s best network.”

Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the RMT union, said: “Whichever way these numbers are carved up and spun, they show that rail franchising is a one-way ticket to the bank for the private train companies.”

The subsidy figures – which include Network Rail track maintenance spending – emerged in the wake of the controversial announcement that regulated fares are due to go up by an average of 3.5 per cent next year.