So late on a Sunday the word goes out from the Department for Transport that the rail franchising timetable is set to be announced and the process will start rolling again
So this week we anticipate the timetable up to the next election in May 2015 and it is going to be a pretty hectic schedule, especially given the difficulties of recent franchises…!! The Brown review will finally find the favourable DfT response anticipated and we can at last have some certainty over what on earth is going to happen.
10 franchises are set to be re-let by May 2015; but, when i say franchises, they will be set up as appropriate for their particular route and issues which are going to include:
– Thameslink and South Eastern are going to get a battering with the London Bridge re-build;
– Great Western will have all kinds of fun with Crossrail coming into play for services between London and Maidenhead;
– Greater Anglia will also have Thameslink and Crossrail recasting;
– if Transport for London succeed then suburban services will come to them from South Eastern and Greater Anglia and will be let as concessions in a manner similar to London Overground;
– TfL have just asked for Expressions of Interest for the operating concession for Crossrail;
– will the Northern and TPE franchises be merged (as is being sought) and devolved to the Rail in the North grouping?
– East Coast will be taken from DOR and re-privatised, thus spoiling the opportunity for a long term data set and qualitative analysis of East Coast performance under DOR compared to other franchises
Anyway, so this week we anticipate 10 franchises having the timetable set out: East Coast, West Coast, Great Western, Greater Anglia, Integrated Kent, Thameslink, East Midlands, Northern, Trans Pennine Express, Essex Thameside
And i suspect there is going to be an awful lot of positioning happening first – the highlight being the media-friendly battle between First Group and Virgin for the East and West Coast routes. Then we have the devolution debate – the North will pave the way before the West Midlands comes into play later in 2015 – add to that TfL looking to absorb London commuter routes and the DfT could start to make their lives easier pretty sharpish! We then have the alternative model approach of adopting management contracts rather than franchises – could it really be?
There is, one hopes, going to be a lot of meat put on the rather bare bones in this coming week where the future of our railways becomes a lot clearer. It certainly will not go unnoticed.