UK Government Announces Plans for Rail Franchising
Government announces plans for rail franchising
The government has taken a step forward towards delivering a more robust and improved rail franchising system when plans for three live competitions, which were placed on hold last October, were announced.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin submitted a written statement to the House of Commons outlining how the Great Western, Essex Thameside and Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise competitions would be handled after the findings of an independent investigation into rail franchising.
After the Brown review, which was released in January, was in favour of the governments overall franchising policy as well as providing competent advice for improvements after the annulment of the InterCity West Coast competition, several franchising decisions have been put into place.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: These plans mark an important step on the way to restarting the franchising programme, and while I am determined this should happen as quickly as possible we do need time to get this right.
We have had to take some tough decisions regarding franchising, and while they may provide a challenge in the short term, I believe the lessons we have learnt will help deliver a more robust system in the future benefitting fare payers and taxpayers alike.
As always our priority is to ensure these changes will not impact on services or our commitment to improving the railways. Our latest step towards delivering a high-speed rail network which will link many of our major cities by a new fleet of state-of-the-art trains is testament to how we are delivering on that commitment.
Short Term first
Negotiations are now set to follow with current operators which will concentrate on new short term franchises, followed by exploration of longer-term options.
The competition for the Essex Thameside franchise is set to be resumed after revising an invitation to tender for a 15-year franchise, initially issued to short listed bidders who are already exisiting and The Great Western franchise will be terminated.
The franchise already in place will run until October due to the department exercising its contractual right to extend the current contract with First Great Western by a total of 28 weeks. The operator is due to inaugurate negotiations for an extra two year contract and longer term bids will be visited in the Spring.
The competition between The Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise will also recommence and the department will work towards securing a 7-year contract, with the current Thameslink/Great Northern franchsise currently operated by First Capital expiting in September.
However, as with the First Great Western contract, it seems the department is willing to exercise the 28 week extension, with negotiations set to take place for a further contract of up to 2 years.
No reimbursable costs
Directly operated railways will also undertake the minimum necessary preparations to take over current services in the event that terms cannot be agreed and all bidders are responsible for their own costs, with no reimburses offered.
Richard Browns report recommended amending current franchising guidelines set out by the Railways Act 1993 so the government have taken steps into going along with his recommendations.
Further announcements are set to be made in the Spring.