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Train operator debts to appear on national balance sheets

TRAIN operators’ debts will appear on national balance sheets following the introduction of emergency measures in March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced today.

All of train companies’ revenue and cost risks were transferred to the UK and Scottish governments in response to the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic after an ONS review concluded that operators “should be classified to the public sector for statistical purposes.”

Unions have previously claimed that such a move would amount to the nationalisation of Britain’s railways, but this is disputed by the industry.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of rail union TSSA, said: “The Office for National Statistics has candidly exposed the truth about our railways – they are now in public ownership.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We have taken unprecedented steps to protect our railways throughout the pandemic, using emergency measures to keep trains running for key workers, protect thousands of front-line jobs and ensure our railways stand ready to support our national recovery from Covid-19.

“Today’s decision simply reflects those temporary agreements.”

The emergency-measures agreements offered to rail firms last for six months, but taxpayer-funded support is expected to continue since passenger numbers remain far lower than when franchise agreements were signed.

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