Abellio is proud to be at the heart of the UK rail industry, helping millions of passengers get from A to B and beyond every day. However, we cannot do this alone – the rail infrastructure in the UK is busy and relies on many different organisations working in collaboration. Here is how we all fit together.
Who owns the rail infrastructure?
Network Rail is the owner and operator of the majority of the UK’s national railway infrastructure. It must ensure safe and effective management of that infrastructure.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the independent regulator which sets out conditions to which Network Rail must comply. The ORR operates within a framework set by UK and EU legislation and is accountable through Parliament and the courts.
Who runs the railway network?
A number of transport organisations – like Abellio – bid for franchises to run specific routes, leasing and managing stations from Network Rail and leasing trains from rolling stock companies.
Abellio is a holding company in the UK, within the group’s wider range of public transport services across Europe.
Passenger Services (Franchises)
In the UK, rail passenger services are split into regional franchises and delivered by private Train Operating Companies (TOCs) like ScotRail for example.
Companies like us bid for contracts (usually over 7-8 year terms) to run individual franchises.
Most contracts are awarded by the Department for Transport (DfT). The exceptions are Merseyrail, which is awarded by Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive, and ScotRail, which the DfT awards on the advice of the Scottish Government’s national transport agency, Transport Scotland.
There are also some local or specialised rail services operated on an ‘open access’ basis outside the franchise arrangements, such as Heathrow Express and Hull Trains, which purchase individual slots on the UK network.
Abellio’s UK Rail Franchises
Abellio currently runs four such franchises in the UK – Merseyrail, Greater Anglia, ScotRail and West Midlands Trains. Since 2003, Abellio has operated the Merseyrail franchise in a joint venture with Serco, a public service provider based in Hampshire. Abellio has a 50% shareholding in Serco-Abellio.
Abellio Greater Anglia began operating the Greater Anglia franchise in 2012. Four years later, Abellio successfully bid to retain the renamed East Anglia franchise until 2025. In January 2017, Abellio sold a 40% stake of this to Japan-based Mitsui.
In 2015, Abellio won and commenced operating the ScotRail franchise as Abellio ScotRail. Finally, in 2017, Abellio won and commenced operating the West Midlands franchise as West Midlands Trains.
Alliances are agreements between Network Rail and TOCs that align behaviours through shared incentives and objectives.
They look at ways where more integrated working could help improve the service for passengers or reduce cost. This could be through better management of stations, betting planning of engineering work or improvements to train punctuality.
The ScotRail Alliance is one example – a close working relationship between Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail Scotland Route. Formed in 2015, it aims to improve the railway in Scotland for the benefit of passengers by working to common aims and objectives under a single managing director and senior team.
There are two types of train fares in the UK – regulated fares and unregulated fares.
Almost half of fares are subject to regulation by Government – in England, in Wales and in Scotland. A formula based on the Retail Price Index (RPI) of the previous July helps set regulated fares, although there is a degree of flexibility, often referred to as the fares basket or flex.
All remaining fares – just more than half in the UK – are set commercially by train operators.