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."

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Lutz, London

    It is the DfT that is at fault here, no fault on FGW. I also wonder if those West Country folk bemoaning the potential loss of services, are any the same as those that pushed expansion of air services to the south west, not realising that this has canalized rail passenger numbers.

  • Tom Watson, Milton Keynes

    Lee - you clearly do not understand what an option is. In short it's a choice, and you and the national press keep (incorrectly) pointing the First Group.

    The franchise agreement specified that First had the choice of whether to continue the franchise or not. It's that simple. You are not compelled to exercise an option.

    First declined, so have not avoided paying anything as you claim.

    Billy bell is quite right in claiming the Department are the villains - they set and agreed the contracted terms.

  • jak jaye, sutton coldfield

    The longer this privatized disaster is allowed to continue the more tax payers money is put in private hands,makes the old BR look good though,they had to manage with 1.3bn to get by.

  • Billy bell, Wishaw

    First group have played a blinder. The people on the government side who allowed the clause in the contract are the real villains in this story.
    A great business strategy by first should not be scoffed at but they seem to be the only ones still around for mud to be thrown at.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    It's not First's fault that the DFT is incompetent -- in fact the DFT should compensate First for having to operate the GWR for another year!!!

    Seems Tim O'Toole has not lost the competence that he showed when Mayor Ken had running TFL Tube network!!

    Wonder if the story on last nights London Tonight that Bullet Trains will operate GWR will soon be announced?

  • Jack99, Oxford

    Why not do an East Coast and bring the FGW Franchise back inhouse ? Profit can then go direct to the Govt ( In reality the Taxpayer )

  • Alan Stainer, Bath

    While I do agree that FGW aren't the the best, they have improved services (especially on branch lines) in the South West beyond expectations. They still offer groupsave tickets to encourage travel which is more than most other operators. To allow another operator to undo all thIs good work would be a travesty.

  • Dave, Cardiff

    Only in the quirky world of railway franchising could less = more
    Projected figures suggest upward trends of people wanting to travel by train in future years
    Only intense lobbying by TOC's can result in the DFT looking at reduced services.
    The TOC's requirement for rolling stock reduces their outlay and they squeeze more passengers on the planned services
    Result, less outlay for stock, more fare reciepts as the numbers of passengers increase.Crazy

  • Lee, Manchester

    Perhaps the extension of First's operation of the Great Western franchise should include clawing back a proprtioned amount of the £800million pounds they were supposed to pay back but opted to avoid by not extending their franchise? Even better, perhaps this funding could be diverted back into service provision or the forthcoming electrification project. Wishful thinking I know but it does smack of hypocrisy that a private company brought in to lower operating costs cna walk away with such a large proffit by deciding not to extend the franchise, then get the franchise extended in part, leaving them to make more proffit in the ensuing time.