The franchising system allows privately-owned train operating companied to distribute profits at a low cost from public subsidy, the director of the Centre for Research on Social-Cultural Change (CRESC) said today.
Professor Karel Williams responded to a new report which claimed that rail privatisation in the UK was "failing to deliver".
She said: "The privately-owned train operating companies have hijacked the government's rail reform agenda which is all about 'getting franchising back on track'.
"It would make sense to abolish the train operating companies and it would cost the taxpayer nothing if it were done as the franchises expired."
The Department for Transport has rejected a TUC report, which claimed that privatisation failed to deliver for rail users and taxpayers and had brought in little private sector investment. A spokesman said:
We do not accept the TUC's analysis of the rail industry.
The fact is privatisation works. It has transformed an industry that was in decline into one that is providing record numbers of journeys for record numbers of passengers and is one of the safest in Europe.
We are currently embarking on the biggest programmes of rail investment ever with work beginning to electrify much of the network, the procurement of over 2,000 new carriages and the upgrade of stations across the network.
This has only been made possible by successive governments working closely with an innovative private sector.
Rail privatisation has failed to deliver for rail users and taxpayers, according to a new TUC commissioned report published today. The report said that privatisation has brought in little private sector investment. The figures show:
The average age of trains has risen since rail privatisation, from 16 years in 1996 to 18 years old today. Just £1.9bn was spent on rolling stock between 2008 and 2012, compared to £3.2bn between 1989 and 1993.
Over 90% of new investment in recent years has been financed by Network Rail.
The UK has the most expensive rail fares in Europe. Long distance, day return and season tickets are all around twice the price of similar tickets in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, which have publicly-run rail systems.
Average train fares in the UK increased at three times the rate of average wages between 2008 and 2012.