It has been revealed that French state operator SNCF has joined Stagecoach and Virgin in a consortium bidding to run the West Coast Partnership, which is due to start in 2019 and is also intended to run trains on Phase 1 of HS2 from 2026. All three have been working on the expression of interest, which was lodged with the Department for Transport yesterday (Monday). SNCF will have a 30 per cent stake. ‘Thrilled’ Virgin said the agreement would put the consortium in the ‘best possible position’ to win the franchise but the RMT has condemned the plan, calling for the next West Coast franchise to be publicly owned.
RMT urges ‘no interference’ as Southern DCO talks restart
Talks are set to take place today (Monday) and tomorrow between the RMT and Govia Thameslink Railway in the long-running dispute over the introduction of driver-controlled working on Southern. The union has called for ‘no interference’ with the negotiations. The dispute has been running for a year, and has caused 31 strikes by the RMT alone.
NAO highlights smart ticketing failings
The National Audit Office has delivered a damning verdict on the progress of smart ticketing on National Rail, accusing the Department for Transport of failing to live up to promises made only a few years ago. In a new report, it says: “The Department has paused and reconsidered its approach to the Programme, and changed its scope and objectives on a number of occasions.” The cost of setting up the back office systems to support smart ticketing was originally put at £45 million, but this rose to £54 million. Even so, the resulting systems are only being used to about 5 per cent of their capacity, and costs are continuing to rise. The DfT has conceded that the programme was ‘ambitious’ but said more than 400,000 season ticket holders now have access to paperless tickets
Services returning to normal after Euston cable fire
A fire in signalling cables at South Hampstead caused serious disruption to services at London Euston last night, and the station had to be closed for a time. Operators said the effects of the incident were felt all the way down the West Coast Main Line as far as Liverpool.
Bechtel wins controversial HS2 contract
Bechtel has won the controversial HS2 Phase 2 contract which was relinquished by CH2M Hill in March after allegations of conflict of interest, but the House of Commons Transport Committee will be questioning transport secretary Chris Grayling and HS2 chairman David Higgins today. One of the other contenders, UK firm Mace, had reportedly threatened to apply for judicial review of the decision by 3 April unless there was a rethink. In the event, USA-based CH2M announced its withdrawal on 29 March, saying it remained ‘fully committed to working with HS2 Ltd on delivering Phase 1 on time and within budget’.
Glasgow Subway expansion plans unveiled
A bold plan to add extensions to the circular Glasgow Subway has been unveiled by the Scottish National Party as the May elections approach. If the SNP wrests control of Glasgow City Council from Labour next month, control of the Subway is set to be transferred from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport to the city council. A £288 million plan to upgrade the present system and replace its familiar orange trains is already under way.