Great Western (Great Western Railway)
What is happening now?
The Department for Transport (DfT) launched a consultation in November 2017 asking for views on proposals for improving train services on the Great Western rail network from April 2020. This includes a proposal to create a new West of England franchise that would provide long-distance services between London, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall (including the Sleeper) together with regional and local services across the South West.
To provide a period of stability before the franchise is next competed, the Department will be asking FirstGroup, the current operator, for a proposal to continue operating the franchise until 2022.
The document can be found here.
In March 2015 the Department for Transport (DfT) announced it had negotiated a second short-term franchise (known as a direct award) with the existing operator, Great Western Railway (GWR), previously known as First Great Western. This will allow them to continue to run services until April 2020 when a new franchise was expected to start.
A previous competition was underway in 2012 but was cancelled as a review of the franchise process was undertaken. In October 2013 the DfT granted a direct award to the existing operator First Great Western allowing them to continue operating services until September 2015. In 2014 DfT ran a consultation on the specification for Great Western for the five year period from 2015.
Our role in the franchising process
We will be responding to the latest consultation and will be working closely with the DfT as they start to shape the competition for the next franchise. We will be engaging in discussions about how to ensure the passenger voice is at the heart of both the specification for the franchise and any further contract agreed with the current operator. Once the new competition starts we will work with bidders to ensure that their plans are centred around the things that are important to passengers.
Transport Focus has maintained a dialogue with the DfT as the Great Western franchise has evolved.
Prior to the announcement of the further direct award to run from September 2015, we were involved in detailed discussions about National Rail Passenger Satisfaction targets to be included in the contract and the passenger outcomes we felt the new agreement should deliver. We had previously responded to the 2014 consultation and made presentations at the stakeholder events organised by the DfT.
The initial two year direct award included a ring-fenced budget to employ a Stakeholder Manager to work specifically on the Great Western network and for additional research on the franchise. These arrangements continue in the curerrent contract.
Route specific research was carried out to inform our input to the 2012 competition (which was ultimately cancelled). We have subsequently used this information, and more recent NRPS data, as evidence of passenger aspirations and views in our discussions with the DfT and GWR about the direct awards. Our submission to the DfT about the interim direct award detailed what passengers would want from this. We stressed that it should include mechanisms to unlock much-needed investment, deliver real passenger benefits and provide firm foundations on which the next franchise can build. These aspirations remain relevant to the most recent agreement.
To view our National Rail Passenger Survey reports or to access these and our appeal complaints data through our Data Explorer tool, please click on the links below:
Transport Focus reports and publications