Government scraps Great Western railway competition

31 January 2013

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31 January 2013 | Anna Reynolds

The government is to terminate the competition for the Great Western railway franchise, but will not reimburse bidders.

The Department for Transport (DfT) put all franchise competitions on hold last October, the competition for the West Coast Main Line contract and while reviews into the process were carried out.

The subsequent Brown review published this month found the franchise process did not need fundamental changes but could be improved.

In a written statement, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin explained how the Great Western, Essex Thameside and Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise competitions would be handled in future.

The current Great Western franchise will now run until October 2013 after the DfT extended the current contract with First Great Western by 28 weeks. Negotiations for an additional two-year contract will commence with the operator while longer-term proposals will be announced in the spring.

The statement added the invitation to tender made clear bidders are responsible for their own costs, and the secretary of state does not believe it would be appropriate to reimburse bidders.

The Essex Thameside franchise will be resumed with a revised invitation to tender for a 15-year deal issued to existing short-listed bidders over the summer. The competition for the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern routes will also be resumed and the DfT will look to award a seven-year contract. The current franchise operated by First Capital Connect ends in September 2013 but allows for a 28-week extension.  

McLoughlin said: “These plans mark an important step on the way to restarting the franchising programme, and while I am determined this should happen as quickly as possible we do need time to get this right.

“We have had to take some tough decisions regarding franchising, and while they may provide a challenge in the short term, I believe the lessons we have learnt will help deliver a more robust system in the future, benefiting fare payers and taxpayers alike.”

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