Transport User Voice – November 2016 – You and your train company
26 October 2016
We’ll be at an event for prospective bidders for the East Midlands franchise in Nottingham on 16 November.
We will highlight the experiences and priorities of passengers, based on our research.
We had already used this research, and results from our National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), to inform our discussions with the Department for Transport about passengers’ priorities for the direct award period. We also used it to provide some recommendations for this franchise.
The next step is for interested parties to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) before a shortlist of bidders is announced.
Wales and Borders
The Welsh Government has announced its shortlist of four bidders: Arriva Trains Wales, Abellio Rail Cymru, KeolisAmey and MTR Corporation.
Last month we reported on our response to the Welsh Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the Wales and Borders rail franchise.
The current franchise is operated by Arriva Trains Wales, which has the contract until 2018.
The new Abellio East Anglia franchise was launched on 16 October and runs for nine years. We attended the launch event for the new franchise at London Liverpool Street on 17 October.
Responding to news that the Abellio East Anglia had been awarded a new franchise, Anthony Smith, Transport Focus’s chief executive, said:
“Abellio will need to work hard during this new franchise to deliver on its bold promises. Passengers will welcome the much-needed new trains, automatic delay compensation and the strong emphasis on punctuality. Part-time commuters will keenly await the introduction of new types of tickets next autumn.
“In our last survey 77 per cent of Abellio’s passengers were satisfied overall with their service, with only 36 per cent satisfied with value for money. We’ll be watching closely to see how this ambitious plan is delivered.”
Following news of the publication of the Invitation to Tender in last month’s issue, our next milestone is the bid review stage.
We will be reviewing the customer experience elements of bids against the specification as set out in the Invitation to Tender, and will produce a specialist report on each bid for the evaluators at Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail.
The new operator will be required to run the franchise in two separate ‘business units’, with one dedicated to providing local rail services in the West Midlands. A map showing the two business units can be found here.
In collaboration with the DfT, West Midlands Rail will lead the management of the franchise for the West Midlands Business Unit. The creation of a business unit specifically for West Midlands local services will also allow for full devolution when the franchise comes up for renewal again, should West Midlands Rail and the Secretary of State for Transport agree to take this forward.
The new operator is due to take over the franchise in October 2017, with the DfT expected to announce the successful bidder in June 2017.
We are carrying out research on behalf of the Department for Transport to understand what passengers want from a new South Eastern franchise. The research will be carried out over the autumn and we expect to publish a report in the new year.
The South Eastern franchise, currently run by Govia, is up for renewal in June 2018.
Last month the Department for Transport announced a direct award to Arriva CrossCountry, extending its running of the franchise to October 2019.
Key benefits to passengers include:
- introduction of free, faster WiFi
- more seats
- faster journeys between Birmingham and Manchester
- removing the £10 administration charge for changes to Advance tickets
Commenting on the Cross Country franchise award, Transport Focus head of policy Mike Hewitson said:
“Passengers across the Cross Country rail network tell us that their key priorities for improvement are the ability to get a seat on frequent, punctual services that provide better value for money.
“It is essential that the new franchise puts passengers’ interest at the heart so it’s good to see that more trains are to be introduced to manage overcrowded services. Free Wi-Fi being available on trains will also make for a more productive and enjoyable journey.”