This paper gives a brief overview of the GB train fleet, explains who owns the trains and how they are leased to the companies that provide train services. It also looks at four big rolling stock procurements: InterCity Express, Thameslink, Crossrail and HS2 and sets out the policies of successive governments.

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The bulk of the rolling stock (trains) that run on the railways are owned by three private companies (rolling stock leasing companies, or ROSCOs) – Angel, Eversholt and Porterbrook. These companies lease the rolling stock to the train operating companies (TOCs) who then deploy it on their services. For the most part, the train companies procure the rolling stock directly from the rolling stock companies.

In addition, in recent years the Government has stepped in to procure large rolling stock orders directly from the train manufacturers. Procurements for schemes such as the InterCity Express Programme, Thameslink and Crossrail have seen some controversy due to the award of successive contracts to companies based largely outside of the UK. Governments have been keen to get these companies to invest in UK skills and jobs.

There have been investigations into the rolling stock market over the past 10 years but no radical changes have been made by Government. The current Government’s policy, dating back to 2010, is to design franchises that better incentivise rolling stock procurement and innovation. This is also a common theme for the industry, which wants to leverage emerging technology and alternative fuels to revolutionise train travel in the future.

Information on other rail-related issues can be found on the Railways Briefings Page of the Parliament website.

  • Commons Research Briefing SN03146
  • Author: Louise Butcher
  • Topics: Rail

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