Posted 18th June 2010 | 8 Comments

Franchise replacements put on hold by DfT

The Essex Thameside franchise was originally let as LTS, and is currently branded c2c

The Essex Thameside franchise was originally let as LTS, and is currently branded c2c

THE replacement process for the two remaining National Express franchises has been put on hold by the DfT.

Following a statement by transport minister Theresa Villiers, it also seems likely that East Coast is set to stay in public control for longer than previously announced.

In a statemen to the Commons, Ms Villiers said: " The Department for Transport will shortly begin a consultation exercise on the future of rail franchising policy. This consultation will provide industry partners with the opportunity to comment on the Government’s approach to rail franchising and whether bidders for longer franchises would be able to offer investment in improvements to trains and services.

"It will also allow the industry to set out its proposals for improving the efficiency and value for money of rail franchises, for both taxpayers and fare payers. I will set out further details to the House in due course.

"To enable the next Greater Anglia and Essex Thameside franchises - which are currently in the process of being re-let - to fully reflect the changes resulting from this review of policy the competitions for these franchises, which were started in January, are to be cancelled.

"It is currently expected that a new competition for Greater Anglia will be advertised by the end of the year, after the consultation responses have been considered, with the Essex Thameside franchise following in Autumn 2011."

Ms Villiers also indicated that the timetable for reletting East Coast, which passed into public control in November, is to be extended as well, but she gave no clue about when this former National Express contract might now be offered to the market. Transfer back to the private sector had been due to take place in November next year.


Reader Comments:

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

  • Michael Landers, Darlington, England

    I think a 30 year franchise is great idea. But the bidders must set out a plan of investment to take the franchise forward in to the future. If the company doesn't stick to its plans, it should be classed as a default on the franchise. Then they should be called to explain themselves and, if that explanation has no good reason, then the company should be sacked from the franchise.

  • Timothy Rowley, Newcastle-U-Lyme, England

    As Lance says it is rather daft that the track has become split away from operators, but I am unsure if handing the track over to the passenger operators would be for the best as they could end up putting pathing problems in place for freight.
    I feel the freight opertors would be best suited to have the track under their wings, as they already have the locos and often the wagons to carryout any maintenance anyway.

    I totally agree with 30+ franchises, Chilten have done a great job and as long as its tied into the agreement that they expand services and replace/purchase new rolling stock to allow this I think everyone could be a winner.


  • John Buckeridge, Woodford Halse

    30-year franchises are too long, especially for operators such as FGW/FCC. There's also no guarantee that the longer franchise would bring the infrastructure investments; after all, an operator can sit on its hands and earn its subsidy simplying by providing the contractual service levels. "Options" already exist in franchise agreements to reopen lines - Chiltern has the GC main line - but this is of no consequence.

    All this talk about franchises avoids the real issue that the system as a whole is dysfunctional. We have the most expensive railway in Europe, yet infrastructure investments are few and far between and usually paid for by the taxpayer. There is no strategic vision for the railways.

  • andrew ganley, cheam, england

    Dont suppose there's any hope of future franchises excluding the wholesale
    'bus-titution' that goes on? no thought not,or instead of the TOC's ringing their hands and moaning about the lack of new rolling stock,maybe get the credit card out and pay yourselves ? no to that i suppose

  • James Barlow, Sheffield, United Kingdom

    Agree with the comments by Lance, it is key to allowing continued improvement during cuts with companies profits being invested, this has and definitely can cause an upward spiral that may help us out of this huge debt and provide the green alternative.

  • Patrick, London, England

    "The Department for Transport will shortly begin a consultation exercise" Just how much money does the government waste in continual consultation exercises, lawyers, accountants, solicitors etc.?!! There's too much red tape, no wonder nothing ever gets done!
    It's nearly been 10 years since privatisation and still the government is messing around with it! They still haven't got it right. I wish they would stop wasting this money on bureaucracy and just get on with investing in our railway's future.

  • Derek Monnery, Manningtree, England

    This presents an interesting problem. National Express has been dismissed as the franchisee for Greater Anglia, and has been told to leave on 31st March 2011. Due to this prevarication, the new franchisee is unlikely to be in place by 1st April 2011. NX has no incentive to carry on with their contract terminated by DfT. So will the government be taking over the franchise on 1st April?

  • Lance W Austrang, Colne, Lancashire

    I would hope that during the consultation, it comes out in favour of 30+ year franchise and within that, the option for any Train operating company to invest in railway reopening projects, like the one to reopen the Colne to Skipton Rail line, which would give a direct link between the East and West Coast Main Lines, (The Missing East West Link).

    Also note, that track and train should be part of the new franchises and not left with Network rail.