A railways industry chief has accused the government of contributing to the cost and inefficiencies on the network.
Association of Train Operating Companies’ chairman Tom Smith said that there was “too much government involvement” in the day-to-day running of the railways.
He also questioned the validity of the finding of the Whitehall-commissioned McNulty report that UK railways were 40% less efficient than some European railways.
Smith said that the European comparison was “something of a smokescreen” and was very difficult to evaluate.
The McNulty report said that inefficiency within UK railways was such that cost cuts of 30% were needed. Smith said that it was “very hard to say” whether the 30% figure was correct.
He added that he did not think the 30% figure was “100% reliable”.
Smith said the rail industry had set out a plan to reduce costs by 20% by 2018-19 and that he felt this could be achieved without having an effect on services.
He said: “I think the government needs to have some confidence in the industry in order to step back from involvement in the railways.
“The reason the government needs to step back is that there is too much government involvement in the day-to-day issue of running the railways.”
He said the government had “close involvement” in projects that could be left to Network Rail to deal with.
There were also “highly-prescriptive demands” from the government within the rail franchise specifications which were “contributing to the cost and inefficiencies that we see today”.