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Rail Franchising

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2013

This morning I have announced to the stock market our long-term plans for rail franchising. This plan is designed to drive improvements to rail services, deliver on major infrastructure projects, and put passengers at the heart of a revitalised rail franchising system.

In addition to publishing a detailed timetable for all rail franchises over the next eight years, I am announcing the immediate start of the competition for the east coast franchise, currently directly operated, with the expectation the new franchisee will carry its first passengers by February 2015.

The new programme will provide long-term certainty to the market and support the delivery of the Government’s £9.4 billion rail investment strategy for 2014-19. The future competitions will also place passengers in the driving seat by ensuring that their views and satisfaction levels are taken into account when deciding which companies run our railway services.

In rolling out the programme the Department for Transport will work closely with the industry to negotiate further new services and more capacity in all franchising contracts while delivering the best deal for both passengers and taxpayers.

Delivering on Brown review recommendations, the new programme will provide a more sustainable schedule for rail franchising by delivering no more than three to four competitions per year, and staggering the two principal inter-city franchises, west coast and east coast, so they will not be let at the same point in the economic cycle.

In order to roll out the programme and stagger future competitions, it will be necessary to exercise a number of contractual extensions with current operators and to negotiate a series of direct awards with current operators. During these discussions the Department will look to negotiate further passenger benefits, which will ensure the best deal for tax payers. As a result, I will later today be serving notice on First Capital Connect and Southeastern to call seven period extensions available in their contracts.

The new franchise programme is set out below:

Franchise (Operator)

Owning Group

Current Franchise Expiry Date

Duration of Franchise Extension and/or Direct Award

Start Date of New Franchise

Essex Thameside (c2c)

National Express

May 13

16 Months

September 14

Thameslink (First Capital Connect)

First Group

September 13 (FCC)

12 months (FCC)

September 14 (FCC)





Southern (Merge to become Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern)


July 15 (Southern)

n/a (Southern)

July15 (Southern)

East Coast

Directly Operated Railways



February 15



April 14

22 months

February 16

TransPennine (TransPennine Express)

First Group/Keolis

April 15

10 months

February 16

Great Western (First Great Western)


October 13

33 months

July 16

Greater Anglia


July 14

27 months

October 16

InterCity West Coast (Virgin Trains)


November 14

29 months

April 17

London Midland


September 15

21 months

June 17

East Midlands (East Midlands Trains)


April 15

30 months

October 17

South Eastern (Southeastern)


April 14

50 months

June 18

Wales and Borders (Arriva Trains Wales)


October 18


October 18

South West (South West Trains)


February 17

26 months

April 19

Cross Country


April 16

43 months

November 19



December 21


December 21

In my statement of 31 January I announced that the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern would be a management style contract due to the level of investment and change on the route. For Great Western, our plan is to put to market a competed management contract in 2016. We will further develop this proposition in the light of experience with the Thameslink competition, which has similar infrastructure challenges, and will give consideration to the capacity in the market closer to the date.

In order to oversee this ambitious programme the Government are also announcing the formation of a new cross-industry Franchise Advisory Panel, headed by Richard Brown, which will provide independent advice and support to both bidders and the Department during the procurement process.

In addition, following an industry consultation, I will today, publish a revised policy statement under section 26 of the Railways Act. This has been updated to reflect current franchising policy and completes a Brown review recommendation.

All the relevant documents will be published on the Department for Transport website. Copies will be made available in the Libraries of both Houses.