West Coast Partnership (Virgin Trains and HS2)
What is happening now?
The Secretary for State for Transport announced in February that a short Direct Award with current operator of Virgin Trains has been agreed, whilst the West Coast Partnership competition progresses. The Invitation to Tender (ITT) will be published ‘in due course’.
In November 2016 the Government announced that a new franchise will combine the current InterCity West Coast services with the development and introduction of High Speed 2 services. The franchise will be known as the West Coast Partnership, and will be responsible for services on both the West Coast Main Line from 2019 and designing and running the initial high speed services from 2026.
Responding to the announcement, Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said:
“Passengers now and in the future will be pleased to see a co-ordinated approach to delivering services running up the west coast as the new line opens up more capacity. With a franchise of this size, it is even more critical that passengers are kept at the very heart of it, and that their satisfaction is built into delivery targets. Less competition could too easily lead to premium pricing so passenger protection will have to be a priority. We will now be working with all bidders to share our detailed work on what current West Coast and future HS2 passengers want.”
In June 2017, the Government announced a shortlist of three bidders to compete to run the new West Coast Partnership franchise. It will be responsible for services on the West Coast Main Line and will design and run the initial HS2 high speed services between London and Birmingham. The three are all joint ventures:
- First Group and Trenitalia
- MTR and Guangshen Railway Company
- Stagecoach, Virgin and SNCF.
The invitation to tender (ITT) will be issued in autumn 2017, with the new franchise scheduled to start 1 April 2019.
The delivery of the West Coast Partnership will require a new short term contract of approximately 12 months for the continued operation of services on the West Coast Mainline, following the end of the current franchise in 2018.
A previous competition to operate this franchise was cancelled in October 2012 following a legal challenge from Virgin and identification of flaws in the process. This led to a wider review of rail franchising and subsequent changes to the DfT approach once the programme was resumed. Virgin Trains has continued to operate the West Coast franchise under short term contracts since the original competition was cancelled.
On 10 May DfT launched a consultation into the future of InterCity West Coast services. The consultation sought the views of passengers and stakeholders and the results is being used to inform the specification of the new franchise. The 12 week consultation closed on 2 August 2016.
Our role in the franchising process
It is critical that the passenger interest is kept at the heart of all plans as the franchise is specified and progresses. We are working with bidders and the Government to ensure that this happens, including building passenger satisfaction into the targets of what they deliver. We will also focus on the pricing of new HS2 and existing services, the handling of engineering work disruption and the layout of new trains.
We responded to the Government’s consultation into the future of InterCity West Coast services in August 2016.
Previously we met with the DfT to determine our input to the next franchise replacement process and we continue to hold detailed discussions with the DfT on the key issues. In Autumn 2015 we carried out research to explore passengers’ current experiences and aspirations for the future. This research will inform our discussions with DfT and our further input to this franchise. An overview of the findings is available here. We will also draw on our work with the HS2 passenger panel.
We made representations to the DfT about the passenger benefits we wanted to see delivered by the most recent Direct Award. These included establishing NRPS targets for the franchise which are now in place.
We had previously conducted research and assessed the available NRPS data to provide evidence of what passengers wanted from the franchise which we fed into the subsequently cancelled competition.
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
|August 2016||High Speed Two (HS2) – a passenger view|
|August 2016||The West Coast franchise – our consultation response|
|February 2016||West Coast passenger research – an overview|
|February 2016||West Coast passenger research – agency report|
|January 2012||Priorities for the West Coast main line research|
|October 2011||Summary of Passenger Focus research and recommendations to government|
Department for Transport reports and publications