Posted 8th October 2012 | 3 Comments

Special West Coast edition of Railnews

RAILNEWS has produced a special PDF edition of the industry's only newspaper, following the remarkable events of last week in which the DfT cancelled the award of the Intercity West Coast contract to FirstGroup.

The extra issue provides a blow-by-blow account of events so far, including a page of questions and answers about the West Coast crisis. Regular columnist Alan Marshall asks what the future of rail franchising might be now, and there is also a page of other news.

Railnews managing editor Sim Harris said: "When we went to press as usual on 28 September, the industry still thought First could take over West Coast on 9 December, although there was the great unknown posed by Virgin's impending hearing in the High Court.

"As we now know, everything changed on 3 October, and we felt an extra issue of Railnews was amply justified to give more coverage of these landmark developments."

The new edition, called Railnews Extra, is available for unrestricted download as an PDF file.

Click here for your copy, and please feel free to pass it on to colleagues.

The next print edition of Railnews will be published on 7 November. To subscribe for a full year, please click here.

Reader Comments:

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

  • PeterB, Cheshire

    It seems to me there are two types of franchises: Those covering commuter lines with average journey times of 1 hour or less, where because the majority of fares are controlled, the timetable and rolling stock are determined by capacity constraints, the role of the franchisee is little more than an employment agency for drivers and guards.
    However on the longer routes, rail is subject to real competition from other means of transport: air, car and coach both in terms of relative journey times and controlled fares are paid by a low proportion of passengers. Here it is the perceived service provided by the franchise operator on board and at the station and the availability of deeply discounted fares that determines the success of the franchise in attracting customers from other means of transport or even encouraging them to make an additional journey. It was Virgin Rail’s success in doing these things that led to the universal howls of protest in the North West of England when it appeared it was going to be removed from the franchise.
    I do not believe that any official playing with their “big toy train set” is ever going to really understand the true dynamics of such franchises and will tend to adopt a “passenger revenues have fallen we will have to put the fares up” mentality and also provided we have enough seats on the train, it is better that they are crammed into as few carriages as possible and you can’t read or use anything bigger than a small paperback (CrossCountry Voyagers), you don’t need break out areas to stretch your legs on a 5 hour journey (specification for new East Coast and Great Western trains) , or you are sitting for 4 hours a few feet away from a large hole in each side of the train which rattle and bang and drafty at 100 mph and then opens fully completing defeating any climate control and forcing all passengers joining or leaving the train to squeeze past you every 20 minutes or so (TPExpress Classes 185 and future 350s).
    It appears that Virgin by addressing all these issues has been the only successful franchise holder on the long distance routes and seen out its full franchise period. That its profits depended on its ability to increase revenue has given it an incentive to address the real issues rail travel faces over these routes.

  • Rob Jenks, Weston-super-Mare

    West Coast is the most financially advantageous of all the train operating franchises which is why Branson wanted to hang on to it and First is keen to get hold of it. For both companies, it must add significantly to their shareholder dividend - the Telegraph reports Branson as having made £200m from West Coast.

    As Joel quite rightly says, rail franchising has been shown for the practice it is - private companies being able to print money at the expense of:

    *passengers with ever increasing fares (even if the latest increase has just been capped at RPI+1%);

    *the tax payer with subsidies that guarantee private companies profits (run that pass me again - but it's true - look at the accounts of the likes of Arriva Trains Wales, not to mention many others)

    *as well as the staff who face ever increasing pressures against a threat of job cuts and accusations that they are paid too much (McNulty - need I say any more?).

    What has been exposed by the fiasco is that the gravy train needs to come to an end and the true owners of the railway - the tax payer and the government - should see the record profits re-invested in the asset that the railway is, under public ownership. It's only political dogma that is preventling it.

  • Joel Kosminsky, London

    What more evidence is needed that private utilities are vehicles for profit with infrastructure and people needs a poor second? No government will do what is obviously needed. Public ownership, value for money enforceable service contracts and transparent management.