Posted 12th March 2014 | 7 Comments

First Great Western may get second direct award

THE Department for Transport may give FirstGroup a second direct award for the Great Western franchise, it has emerged.

The last franchise expired in October, having already been extended by 28 weeks, and was then replaced by a direct award which runs until 19 September 2015.

But in a Parliamentary answer, transport minister Stephen Hammond said: "For the period from September 2015 the Great Western franchise is planned to be covered by a second direct award franchise agreement, as the first direct award franchise agreement may not exceed two years under the relevant procurement regulations. The amount of net franchise payment and revenue support payable for this second direct award is not known since the agreement has not yet been negotiated."

It is thought that the second award could run until 2020, when it would be succeeded by a conventional, competitively-tendered franchise.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Roger Capel, Sheffield

    Fascinating thing about FGW is that its parent company actually owns some of the rolling stock - a portion of the HST fleet belongs to First Group.

    So what would be the position were First to lose the franchise? Pick up its trainset & replace 180s on First Hull Trains perhaps???

    (Possibly. The HSTs directly owned by First are only a small portion of the whole FGW HST fleet.--Editor)

  • M Godwin, Bath

    Never been impressed with the service on the Portsmouth - Cardiff route. Too few coaches on most trains, Sunday services hopeless and often disrupted by track maintenance. Give someone else a chance!

  • David Cook, Broadstone, Dorset

    The ability to do long term planning of routes and rolling stock must come down to a long franchise, so investment would pay dividends for passengers and the company. Whilst the electrification of the Cardiff route is the current priority for investment, and new trains will hopefully mean some others can be cascaded, other routes feel a bit left out. Particularly poor are the class 142's on the route from Torbay round to Exmouth which are bumpy and uncomfortable. No trains on Sunday morning out of Weymouth to Westbury/Bristol is quite frustrating, doubly so whilst Southampton is undergoing long term upgrades and SWT have replaced weekend trains with buses between Bournemouth and Southampton which makes day trips to Bath (about 75 rail miles away) almost impossible at present. Add in the increased cruise liner passengers between Cardiff and Southampton squeezing on to 3 coach class 158's (and sometimes class 2 coach 150's when there is a shortage of 158's) and the frustration is quite palpable on those trains. Having said that, the staff are great, and the trains mostly run on time, even if they are getting quite old.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    "They have invested virtually nothing in the stations, trains and timetables."

    To be fair, the last two are out of First's hands, at least on the mainline. Train companies can only lease rolling stock from rolling stock owners, and the DfT has pretty tight control over who gets which trains. Trains into Paddington currently have the worst overcrowding of all - but currently, First are already using pushing the Paddington corridor to the limits.

    The only good news is that in a few years' time things will get a lot better with IEP, electrification and Crossrail. That will be mainly down to the government's intervention rather than First's, but most of the blame for the current state of First's services lies with successive government for failure to invest in the rail network, on both the Great Western network and elsewhere.

  • Tony Hill, BIRMINGHAM

    First doesn't have the best record on the Great Western main line, so why it isn't being put up for tender is baffling. Come on DfT get your act together, especially coming after the West Coast fiasco!

  • Matt, Weston-super-Mare

    Peak services on most routes have doubled under FGW. We also have extra carriages on most services, and far more seats on HST sets. Yeah Tim, theyve invested nothing!

  • Tim, Devon

    How awful. Worst Late Western is the worst franchise in the country. They have invested virtually nothing in the stations, trains and timetables. It just goes to show how uninterested the London centric DfT is in the South West.