A railway industry organisation created in the early years of privatisation and which has played a key role for more than 20 years has disappeared. The Association of Train Operating Companies was set up in June 1995, several months before the first franchises were awarded, but it has now been merged with the much newer Rail Delivery Group. The reform follows feedback from stakeholders, members and staff. The RDG has also emphasied the changeover by launching a new logo.
Major improvement plan for struggling ScotRail
The ScotRail Alliance has unveiled a plan to improve performance, after managing director Phil Verster had described the task of upgrading the network while running trains day-to-day as like ‘performing open heart surgery while doing a marathon’. The new plan includes £8 million for asset improvements, ‘specifically tailored’ upgrades for key parts of the network such as Edinburgh and the Borders, Lanarkshire and Tayside, and targeted work on rolling stock to deal with the most common faults.
Eurotunnel prepares to sell GB Railfreight
GB Railfreight is set to be sold by Eurotunnel, which bought the business from FirstGroup in 2010. Since then, GBRf has been part of Eurotunnel’s railfreight subsidiary Europorte. The potential buyer EQT said the move was ‘an integral part of EQT’s strategy to create a leading independent pan-European railfreight operator’. GB Railfreight employs 650 people and operates more than 1,000 trains a week.
'Transformative' Greater Anglia franchise starts
A new nine-year franchise has been launched for the East of England, under the title of Greater Anglia. The operator is Abellio, which has run two short contracts in the region since 2012, when it replaced National Express. A new 'accord' between the franchise and Network Rail has also been announced, under which both sides have undertaken to work together at a practical level to improve infrastructure. The new deal includes the replacement of Greater Anglia's existing fleets by new trains within the next three to four years, and faster journeys which will include 'Norwich in 90'.
Rail passengers have been ‘badly let down’, say MPs
The House of Commons Transport Committee has published a highly critical report of the state of rail franchising, which considers whether Govia Thameslink Railway is in default of its contractual obligations and also makes a number of key recommendations about franchising in general. It claims rail passengers have been 'badly let down by Government failure to structure, monitor and enforce franchise agreements and the planning and management of major rail infrastructure projects'.
Delay compensation threshold halved to 15 minutes
The government is tightening up the rules for compensation when trains run late, with the compensation window being halved in future from 30 to 15 minutes. The move has come less than a fortnight since the Consumer Rights Act came into force on railways. The first operator to introduce ‘Delay Repay 15’ will be Govia Thameslink Railway, where a strike of Southern conductors is underway in the long-running DOO dispute. The DfT said the new rules would be introduced on GTR 'within months'.
Contenders named for next Welsh franchise
The Welsh Government has chosen four possible operators of the next Welsh franchise, which starts in 2018 when Arriva's 15-year contract comes to an end. The aim is to create a 'not for profit' organisation, which the government said will be modelled on Transport for London. The successful bidder, to be known as an Operator and Development Partner, will run trains in Wales, assist with the evolution of the South and North Wales Metros and manage the transition to electric trains in several parts of the Principality.