The report from Sir Roy McNulty, former chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, is yet to be published but officials are already claiming its contents will lead to rail passengers facing higher fares, ticket offices being closed and reductions in on-board staff.
The report is expected to find fares structures are too complex and do not effectively manage peak demand, that the railways are subject to too much State involvement and that a growth in services has not been matched by greater efficiencies.
General secretary of the Aslef union Keith Norman said: “At least Sir Roy McNulty is consistent. His report into the railways starts off with misery and woe. It ends with gloom and depression, and in between it is dismal and despondent.
“It takes a special person to remain in moan mode while passenger figures increase, punctuality improves, journey times decrease and delays drastically reduce.”
Aslef said it was particularly concerned over moves to give train operators control of the rail infrastructure amid speculation that the report will say this is introduced immediately in Merseyside, Scotland, Greater Anglia, South West, Southern, Southeastern, the Western region and Wales.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “The Government are clearing the tracks for a massive assault on rail jobs, ticket offices and drivers’ pay and conditions while the train operators are allowed to carry on robbing the network of hundreds of millions of pounds in profits and subsidies.”
The row emerges as new figures revealed rail passengers made almost five per cent more journeys in the first three months of this year compared with the snow-hit January-March 2010 period.
A total of 316 million journeys were made in January-March 2011, up 4.8 per cent on the same period last year, the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said. The figures for the beginning of last year were affected by the bad weather of January 2010.
A survey by Ipsos MORI for Atoc suggested a sixth of r ail users have switched from car to train for at least one journey during February and March this year.