Campaigners call for reform of franchise system

A passenger campaign group has called for a review of the Government’s franchise awarding system, claiming that the current process puts too much emphasis on the highest bid not the best service.

Today the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that FirstGroup was to take over operation of the West Coast Mainline from Virgin after submitting a bid of £5.5 billion for the 14-year contract.

Richard Hebditch, campaigns director for Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Whatever the merits of either the First bid or that of Virgin, there is a fundamental problem with the way that franchises are let.

“The Government has moved to have longer franchises to encourage more investment from train companies in the railway, but when it comes to assessing bids the only thing that really matters is who offers the most money.

“We do need better value for money from the railway but the Government is often too focused on the money and not on the real value. We should be making sure that we put passengers first in the franchise system and deliver an affordable, reliable and convenient service.”

David Sidebottom, passenger director at Passenger Focus, said: “For the passengers making their way from London to Manchester or Glasgow, the important thing is not the name on the side of the train, but the experience of the journey, the availability of staff when you need them and of course the value for money.

“We welcomed the suggestion that passenger satisfaction targets could be included in the franchise, which would help us and passengers to hold the franchisee to account. We will now be reviewing the details to see exactly what passengers on this line can expect.

“With another above-inflation fare rise on the horizon, now more than ever passengers will be looking for value especially in terms of getting a seat and being on time.”

Source :

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