Rail regulator ORR proposes steep increase in HS1 access charges

Southeastern high-speed services run on HS1.

Train operators using High Speed 1 (HS1 – the former Channel Tunnel Rail Link) could soon face track access charges that have more than doubled.

This is because the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), has proposed that train operators using the high-speed line will pay £26 million per year to keep its assets in good condition.

The hidden good news for operators is that HS1 Ltd, the company that runs the 67 miles of high-speed railway which links London with the Channel Tunnel, actually asked for £35 million and the ORR knocked them back to ’only’ £25 million.

It’s still a sharp increase though.  Over the past five years, the charge has been £11.2 million per year.

Ebbsfleet International station, HS1.

HS1 requested the massive increase as the asset is now getting older and needs more work. While the ORR accepted the majority of HS1’s proposals, it made recommendations about how the asset should be managed. These included reviewing its approach to asset life, seeking efficiencies in its supply chain and improving its approach to research and development.

The ORR’s analysis also concluded that the lower figure of £26 million a year would be sufficient and would bring a lower rise in charges to operators using the route.

These conclusions will now be published in the form of a Draft Determination and go out to public consultation and for stakeholder comment until 11 November. The Final Determination of the bill for the next five years will be announced in January.

John Larkinson, ORR

ORR chief executive John Larkinson said: “High Speed 1 is a valuable public asset and our role is to provide independent assurance that High Speed 1’s assets can be kept in good condition over the long term at the lowest possible cost. This is important to make sure that operators and, in turn, passengers and freight users get a good deal now, but not at the expense of future generations.

High Speed 1 Ltd currently holds a concession agreement for 30 years for operation of the HS1 network, which lasts until 31 December 2040. Every five years, the ORR carries out a review of HS1’s plans for the following control period.

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