THE UK Government is to restart its crisis-hit rail franchising programme after an independent review concluded the system was not broken but in need of reform.

A report by Eurostar chairman Richard Brown, ordered after the collapse of the West Coast rail franchise competition in October, shunned radical measures such as re-nationalisation, insisting the system of contracting private train operators to run services was "fundamentally sound" and had helped achieve a 92% growth in passengers since privatisation.

He said: "Britain's railways are now the second safest in Europe.

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"Franchising is an important component of the privatised industry structure, and it is highly unlikely that these successes could have been delivered if franchising was fundamentally flawed."