Open access market shows resilience

18 May 2023
We have published our annual report of the open access market, which provides insight on recent developments in the industry. 
Loic Laude
Loic Laude
Senior Manager, Competition Policy
Cover Image
train track

Overall, the open access market is performing well and is set to grow with ORR’s recent approval of a new open access operator, Grand Union Trains, which will offer a new train service on the Great Western Main Line, between Carmarthen and London. Grand Union Trains has access rights to run services from December 2024.

Of particular note is that, post pandemic, open access operators have tended to recover passengers and revenues quicker than other operators.

Service quality

One of the main reasons we publish this report is to present data which can help tell us whether open access competition is delivering for passengers. We do this by looking at a range of measures of service quality, for example the number of complaints, punctuality etc.

Post-pandemic recovery 

We looked at a variety of data, including the number of journeys; the number of passenger kilometres travelled; and total fare revenue,  and found that the post pandemic recovery of open access operators has tended to be greater than publicly contracted operators on the same or similar routes.

This appears to be consistent with the overall trend within the industry of a stronger recovery for leisure than for, in particular, commuting, as outlined in our most recent statistical update, and with the particular focus of open access operators on the leisure market.

What operators are saying and ongoing challenges

Despite the progress in generating and improving competition and innovation, the report identifies ongoing challenges faced by the industry. Current operators highlighted common themes, such as a track access application process, the unavailability of existing rolling stock and difficulties in recruiting train drivers.

Our role monitoring the market

We intend to continue to monitor the market for open access in a proportionate way. We value stakeholder input into this process, and we therefore welcome all comments and suggestions from interested parties. These can be submitted by email to