TRAIN operators are running short on time to agree new contracts with the government as the coronavirus outbreak continues to drive down passenger numbers.
Go Ahead Group and First Group run the Great Western and South Eastern franchises respectively, the contracts for which end by 1 April.
Under the Railways Act, the government will step in as the operator of last resort if the firms do not agree an extension to the deals.
However, due to the financial pressure caused by the coronavirus epidemic, the two firms are struggling to get bank guarantees they need to run the services, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
The outbreak has hammered the two firms, with First Group shedding almost half its share value and Go Ahead losing two-thirds.
Both firms stressed that discussions with the government were ongoing, saying that the issues were industry wide.
A First Group spokesperson said: "The entire industry is in urgent discussions with government about how to continue operating our vital services in the short term and beyond."
In the same vein, a Southeastern spokesperson said: "We are in the final stages of discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT) regarding a potential direct award contract for Southeastern."
(c) 2020 City A.M., source Newspaper