Update on franchising – February 2013

28 March 2013

Following the publication of the review of rail franchising by Eurostar chairman Richard Brown, the Department for Transport has made decisions on the future of three refranchising processes:

  • The competition for Essex Thameside will be resumed with a revised invitation to tender issued to the existing shortlisted bidders during the summer.
  • The competition for a seven year combined Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise will also be resumed with an invitation to tender being issued to existing shortlisted bidders. This is expected to be for a management style contract and the timetable for the process is to be announced in the spring.
  • The competition for the First Great Western Franchise will be terminated and the franchise reconsidered.

In the meantime the existing operators will be contacted with the intention to negotiate interim franchise agreements. An agreement that Virgin will continue to run West Coast services for up to 23 months, until a longer term franchise is let, was announced in December.

The full timetable for the franchising programme will be announced in the spring, together with a statement on rail franchising policy.

The Brown Review of rail franchising spelled out some key options to transport minister Patrick McLoughlin. The report stated that franchising is fundamentally the right approach, but that it needs improving and refining. Brown emphasised the need for service quality for passengers, and suggested an enhanced role for our National Passenger Survey.

He suggests seven to 10 year franchises with an automatic extension period, a 24-month cycle of letting the franchise, and a more output-based specification. He is also in favour of greater devolution to the English regions.

Our more detailed summary of the main findings is available here.

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