Posted 19th July 2012 | 9 Comments
Great Western franchise to be extended
THE PRESENT Great Western franchise is to be extended because the DfT's franchise renewal programme is running behind schedule.
The contract, which is held by FirstGroup, was due to end in April next year after First declined to take up an option to keep it until 2016, so saving the payment of an estimated £800 million in premiums.
But the Invitation to Tender has yet to be issued to the shortlisted bidders. A DfT spokesman conceded that a new franchise cannot now start on on 1 April 2013, and said an announcement would be made shortly about an extension. He declined to give a precise date, but said the extension would probably take the present contract to July.
He also said the ITT would be published soon.
There had been fears in Cornwall that the minimum service specification in the ITT is set to cut the number of daily through trains between Cornwall and London from nine to six.
Concerns have been expressed by councillors and business leaders, and MPs in the Duchy have also joined the protests. West Cornwall Liberal Democrat Andrew George said: "As we understand it, it does mean the companies bidding for the franchise might be able to include proposals that would reduce the service. This is something we're not prepared to put up with.
"At a time when other parts of the country are seeing £9.4bn of improvements to their rail services, we would actually see a cut."
But although the DfT would not give any details ahead of the ITT, a spokesman said: "We are committed to ensuring that all passengers on the Great Western network continue to enjoy access to regular train services."
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