Rail franchise review signals procurement changes

11 January 2013

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11 January 2013 | Adam Leach

The UK rail industry and franchising processes work and don’t require structural changes, but should be improved an independent review commissioned by the government has concluded.

In the wake of the botched attempt to award the West Coast Main Line franchise at the end of last year, the government asked Eurostar chairman Richard Brown to carry out a review into how rail franchises are awarded.

In his report published yesterday, he concluded while the system works, there are multiple areas where improvements should be made. The report recommended that the Department for Transport (DfT) should carry out procurement of a franchise within a set timescale of 24 months. This, Brown asserted, would give sufficient time for planning the individual procurement process and would also encourage policy development to be carried out early and rigorously.

He also called for the PQQ used in the process to be purely backward-looking, assessing bidders past performance and taking no account of their vision for the future.

Publishing his report, Brown said: “In carrying out this review I have come to the conclusion that the franchising system is not broken, but rather it has made a major contribution to Britain’s increasingly successful rail network. It is therefore essential for both passengers and the wider rail market that the franchising programme is restarted as soon as possible.”

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said in response: “The review has confirmed that government’s approach to the rail franchising system is still the best way to secure the rail services for taxpayers and fare payers alike. It has identified a number of detailed improvements, which I will carefully consider before publishing a further statement regarding the government’s franchising policy in the spring.”

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