The Great Western franchise 2013 onwards: an initial submission from Passenger Focus

22 December 2011

Revised franchise policy indicates the Government intends to let longer franchises where possible and also issue less central specification, giving bidders greater flexibility in how they specify/develop the service offered to passengers. Passenger Focus believes that when the requirements of the franchise are established, it is vital that the needs of passengers who use and pay for rail services are placed squarely at the heart of the contract. We will identify and vigorously promote the passenger agenda and will work closely with DfT and short-listed bidders to ensure passenger requirements are evidenced and addressed both during the franchise competition and at all stages of the ensuing contract term. It is imperative that there is no repeat of the failures of the early stages of the current franchise. The specification must build on the existing framework of services and seek progressive improvements in all areas of performance. It is important that the franchise ensures that existing demands are adequately addressed and, that at appropriate stages, franchise reviews can respond to any changes or inaccuracies in planning assumptions. It is envisaged that longer franchises will bring the welcome prospect of increased investment. It is equally important that, throughout its duration, the franchise remains responsive to changing passenger needs. This means that not only must there be a clear understanding of passenger requirements at the outset but that there is an ongoing emphasis on consultation and engagement with stakeholders and a set of output measures that reflect passenger satisfaction. The National Passenger Survey should be included within the franchise monitoring mechanisms. Longer franchises require firm commitments to be met by the operator on given dates and these must be transparent, clearly defined and monitored. The franchise should focus on outcomes for passengers and ensure that there are sanctions available to reflect any failure in delivery. The ultimate sanction should be termination

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