Yet another incredible and enormous and previously unthinkable political manoeuvre has been performed in a matter of days – making running a country look easy when needs must – as the government has effectively nationalised the UK's railways for the duration of the drastically scaled-back period of operation under coronavirus menace.
All rail franchises now have the option of signing an Emergency Measures Agreement, which transfers their costs and ticket revenues to the government for a minimum of six months. The operators continue running the lines and are paid a management fee for doing so, but the costs, all of them, wages and everything, are being picked up by the government; guaranteeing that the lines stay open, the staff in jobs, and that when restrictions are eased the rail companies may continue running without any financial schisms having destroyed their chances of survival.
Any rail companies that don't fancy signing up to an EMA have been told that the Operator of Last Resort full nationalisation scheme stands ready to step in, so they all really ought to take this bonkers offer of at least six months of someone else picking up the bills. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said:
"...today's announcement will make sure key workers who depend on our railways are able to travel and carry on their vital roles, that hardworking commuters – who have radically altered their lives to combat the spread of coronavirus, are not left out of pocket, and it will provide certainty to the industry's staff who are still working hard every day to make sure the railway plays its part in tackling this crisis."
You know times are bad when you start welling up over a press release from Grant Shapps. [GOV]