Train Operating Companies (TOC) - B
Train Operating Companies (TOC) - B
A train operating company (TOC) is the term used on the railway system of Great Britain for a railway undertaking operating passenger trains under the collective National Rail brand. TOCs have existed since the privatisation of the network under the Railways Act 1993.
There are two types of TOC: most hold franchises let by the Department for Transport (DfT) through a tendering system, to operate services on certain routes for a specified duration, while a small number of open-access operators hold licences to provide supplementary services on chosen routes.
These operators can run services for the duration of the licence validity. The franchised operators have changed considerably since privatisation: previous franchises have been divided, merged, re-let to new operators, or renamed. Some privately-operated franchises have been taken over by a government-owned operator of last resort, due either to failing expectations or to events on the rail system as a whole.
The term is also sometimes used to describe companies operating passenger or freight rail services over tracks owned by another company or a national network owner.
Franchises were initially let by the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF). This was in turn replaced by the Strategic Rail Authority, which has since been abolished. For England, franchising is now the responsibility of the Department for Transport in the majority of cases.
In Scotland, it is the responsibility of Transport Scotland. In Wales, since 2017, the responsibility for the specification and procurement of the Wales & Borders franchise belongs to Transport for Wales. In two parts of England, local government agencies are responsible: in Merseyside, the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive lets the Merseyrail franchise, while in London, Transport for London (TfL) oversees the new London Overground and Elizabeth line concessions.
(London Underground, a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London, operates trains nearly all on its own network serving mostly its own stations: It is not a Train Operating Company by the definition here.)
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) (formerly the Association of Train Operating Companies) provides a commonality for the TOCs and provides some centralised co-ordination. Its activities include the provision of a national timetable and online journey planner facility, and the operation of the various Railcard discount schemes. Eurostar is also a member of the RDG, though it is not itself a TOC.
For historical and geographical reasons the railway network of the United Kingdom is split into two independent systems: one in Great Britain (including the Isle of Wight), and one in Northern Ireland, which is closely linked to the railway system of the Republic of Ireland.
In Great Britain, passenger train services are operated by a number of companies, referred to as Train Operating Companies or TOCs, normally on the basis of regional franchises awarded by the DfT Rail Group. Until 2005 this role was performed by the Strategic Rail Authority. The infrastructure of the railways in England, Scotland, and Wales – including tracks and signalling – is owned and operated not by the train companies but by Network Rail, which took over responsibility from Railtrack in 2002.
Most passenger trains are owned by a small number of rolling stock companies (ROSCO) and are leased to the individual TOCs. However, a handful of TOCs own and maintain some of their own rolling stock. Train operating companies also operate most of the network's stations, in their role as station facility owners (SFO), in which they lease the buildings and associated land from Network Rail. Network Rail manages some major railway stations and several stations are operated by London Underground or other companies.
All passenger TOCs in Great Britain are privately owned. The majority of these hold franchises to operate rail services on specific parts of the railway and come under the auspices of the National Rail brand. In addition, companies are able to bid for "paths" (specific parts of the overall National Rail timetable) to operate their own services, which the franchises do not operate – these operators are classed as open-access operators and are not franchise holders.
Currently in Great Britain, there are three open-access operators: Hull Trains, which runs services between London King's Cross and Hull, Grand Central, which operates between King's Cross and Sunderland and between King's Cross and Bradford, and Lumo, which operates between King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley.
In addition, there are operators that fall outside the purview of National Rail, which operate specific services which are recent additions to Britain's railways. The main examples are Eurostar, which operates to continental Europe via the Channel Tunnel, and Heathrow Express, which runs fast services from London to Heathrow Airport.
A number of metropolitan railways on the network are operated by the local franchise holder in conjunction with the passenger transport executive or other civic body responsible for administering public transport.
One of these bodies, the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (Merseytravel) is responsible for one of three National Rail franchises not awarded by central government, namely the Merseyrail franchise, while certain National Rail services in North London came under the control of TfL in November 2007 as London Overground.
Two other franchises, the Scottish national franchise, currently operated by ScotRail, and the Welsh domestic franchise, operated by Transport for Wales, are awarded by the devolved governments of the two constituent nations.
The Rail Delivery Group is the coordinating body of the train operating companies in Great Britain and owns the National Rail brand, which uses the former British Rail double-arrow logo and organises the common ticketing structure. Many of the train operating companies are in fact parts of larger companies which operate multiple franchises.
The following train operating companies are commercially owned.
Commercially-Owned Train Operating Companies
Parent Train Operating Company
The following train operating companies are government owned.
Government-Owned Train Operating Companies
Parent Train Operating Company
The railway network in Northern Ireland is managed differently from the rest of the UK. The sole company in Northern Ireland that operates trains is NI Railways, who are a subsidiary of Translink, the publicly owned transport corporation, which also runs the Metro buses in Belfast and Ulsterbus coaches around the country.
NIR is not a TOC under the terms of the Railways Act 1993, which only applies to Great Britain. The cross-border service Enterprise (Belfast–Dublin) is jointly operated with Iarnród Éireann, the publicly owned national railway company of the Republic of Ireland.
Upon privatisation in 1994, the three passenger-operating sectors of British Rail (InterCity, Network SouthEast and Regional Railways) were divided, and their existing operations were let as 25 franchises:
The privatisation process began when BR's passenger sectors were divided into 25 train operating units which were gradually incorporated as publicly owned subsidiaries of the British Railways Board. They acted as shadow franchises prior to being put to tender:
The opening of the Channel Tunnel saw operations by Eurostar begin from London Waterloo to Paris and Brussels.
The franchising process was implemented, with various private companies taking over the shadow franchises. Three were awarded to management buyouts. The Great Western Holdings' management also were awarded the North West Regional Railways franchise. The remainder were divided between a handful of major transport operators:
Initial franchisees and operating companies following British Rail privatisation
Franchise holder Train Operating Company Notes:
In Northern Ireland, NIR stopped using its own branding on the Enterprise service between Belfast and Dublin when it purchased new rolling stock in conjunction with IÉ, instead launching Enterprise as a separate brand name.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom caused passenger numbers to reduce to near zero, the UK government took emergency action to support train operating companies by assuming their financial risks. The companies were not allowed to make timetable or staffing changes without government approval. The Office for National Statistics reclassified the companies as public non-financial corporations so borrowing and employees are counted in the public-sector. They were viewed as effectively temporarily renationalised.
The privatisation of British Rail allowed the introduction of open-access operators, in which companies, upon payment of a fee, could purchase individual slots on the mainline. This has led to the growth in companies offering charter trains, and to the railtour.
Most railtour operators run services in part of the country, however, there are a handful that operate services nationwide. Usually, these will see a train made up of ex BR rolling stock pulled by a hired locomotive from one of the freight companies. Occasionally, a preserved ex BR locomotive that is certified to run on the mainline will be made available for such charters.
Locomotive Services (seasonal)
A number of coastal railway stations in the United Kingdom serve to provide connections to ferry services to a number of destinations.
Most of the ferry operators in these cases set their timetable to run in conjunction with the arrivals and departures of rail services from the stations serving the ferry terminals.
A handful of these even offer integrated pricing for both rail and ferry travel – because the Island Line is part of the National Rail network, passengers can purchase tickets for travel to any of the stations on the Isle of Wight from any other station in Great Britain. This ticket also covers the cost of passage on the Wightlink catamaran from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head. It is also possible to purchase ferry inclusive tickets from any station in Great Britain to Cowes or East Cowes on the Isle of Wight using Red Funnel ferries, although there are no rail connections from these towns.
There are two main international services which operate on the railways in the United Kingdom:
A third service which is worth mentioning is Dutchflyer (GoLondon in the Netherlands). This is not a separate rail service in itself as the others are, but a collaboration between Greater Anglia, Stena Line and Nederlandse Spoorwegen to provide an integrated rail/sea/rail service between eastern England (London Liverpool Street, Cambridge, Norwich) and The Netherlands (Amsterdam Centraal) using a single ticket.
A further international service is provided by Venice Simplon Orient Express. Although this is primarily a railtour operator with special trains to various locations in the United Kingdom, it also operates the scheduled Orient Express service to destinations in Europe.
This involves two separate trains; the Belmond British Pullman departs from London Victoria and terminates at Folkestone West, where passengers transfer by coach through the Channel Tunnel to Calais; at Gare de Calais-Ville, they then join the Orient Express which then calls at various destinations including Paris, Vienna, Innsbruck, Venice and Rome.
In other countries
The differentiation between train operating companies and railway infrastructure companies was enforced by European Union legislation and can be found in all EU member countries.
In Germany, train operating companies (Eisenbahnverkehrsunternehmen – EVU) are defined by General Railways Act 1993, s. 2(1) (Allgemeines Eisenbahngesetz (AEG), enacted 27 December 1993) as companies providing train services. They are distinct from Eisenbahninfrastrukturunternehmen (EIU), which own and maintain the railway infrastructure. While there are many private EVU, that have obtained regional franchises, only a handful of long-distance EVU exist (the largest by fare being DB Fernverkehr); the infrastructure is also almost completely owned by Deutsche Bahn subsidiaries.