Leasing Passenger Trains: The British Experience


Jean Shaoul

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

organisation - privatisation, organisation - privatisation


United Kingdom, Privatization, Privatisation, Passenger trains, Leasing, Great Britain, Economic analysis, Costs, Case studies


This paper reviews the experience of the train-leasing model, a vital but invisible component of Britain's privatized railway system, using publicly available financial information. As a result of the leasing regime established at privatization, the leasing charges for the old trains, paid for by the state, are high, contributing to the need for higher fares and subsidies, and the highest profits in the industry. The cost of commissioning new trains via leasing is higher than public debt. Operating and reliability problems have imposed extra costs on other stakeholders. Leasing charges are likely to continue long after the trains have been fully paid for.