Bernard Tabary of Keolis and Manfred Rudhart of Arriva see no post-referendum threat to their continued involvement in UK passenger transport

 

tabary_rudhart640Bernard Tabary (pictured left) and Manfred Rudhart (right)

 

Two of the world’s largest multi-national passenger transport groups see no hurdles to their future involvement in the UK in the wake of this year’s referendum vote to leave the European Union. The main concern of Arriva and Keolis is the impact it will have on UK economic growth.

The Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting that potential growth in the current parliament will be 2.4% lower than anticipated in March, as a result of the Brexit vote.

In an exclusive interview with Passenger Transport, Arriva chief executive Manfred Rudhart said: “For me the most fundamental question is really how is the economy developing and what kind of impact this will have on our passenger numbers and then on the further development of the franchising system in the UK trains market, and the ability of the public bodies to fund public transportation.”

Those comments were echoed by Bernard Tabary, CEO international at Keolis.

“The trend is positive for sure, but its base is likely to be lower than what was expected, and in that respect we expect that the ridership on rail franchises may slow in its growth compared to what anticipations were,” he told a press briefing in London last week.

“We feel lucky in a way that we are not exposed … through franchises we could have won on huge passenger growth assumptions.”

While Rudhart and Tabary each raised concerns about the impact of Brexit on economic growth, they are confident that it will not result in any significant impediments to trade.

UK-based Arriva, which is owned by Germany’s Deutsche Bahn has operations in almost half (13) of the EU’s 28 member states,
as well as neighbouring Serbia. In the UK, the group operates over 5,000 buses and five rail contracts. Rudhart does not forsee any significant barriers or inhibitions to his company doing business in Europe after Brexit.

“I don’t see those,” he said. “In general the trading will happen. There may be some slightly more administration when our managers are travelling between our countries and the UK, but this has nothing to do with structural impairment of our business. I don’t see that really happening.”

Bernard Tabary agrees. Keolis is owned by French state railway SNCF, operates in 16 countries worldwide, including nine in the EU. The group’s UK operations are its largest outside of France, including Docklands Light Railway and Nottingham Express Transit light rail systems and a minority share in three rail franchises.

“The impressions that we get is the desire of government to have an open market is constant and we have no threat of any substance and we are certain … that [rail] franchising has brought great benefits to this country.”

Keolis calculates that the passenger transport market in the UK and Ireland is worth £16.5bn a year, with franchised heavy rail accounting for around half of that. He praised the high standards of governance at the Department for Transport, and he ranked Transport for London as one of the world’s “top three” public transport authorities.

Tabary said that the group’s approach to Brexit mirrored its approaches to the policies adopted by public transport authorities: “We don’t define strategy, we execute strategy – and as far as Brexit is concerned we don’t comment on an election or on a choice, we acknowledge the choice that has been made by the country and its people, and adapt.”

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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