THE Department for Transport has confirmed it has cancelled the competition to bid for the SouthEastern Railway franchise. The announcement on August 7, follows the suspension of the CrossCountry and West Coast Partnership bids in the light of the Williams Rail Review. Govia has been given another direct award until April 2020, which will allow the recommendations of the Williams Review to be considered.
The decision to suspend a third franchise competition comes just days after a bid by the Department at the High Court to head off legal action invoked by both Stagecoach/Virgin and Arriva. Both were disqualified in bidding for the East Midlands franchise earlier this year after their bids were deemed ‘non-compliant’ over pension issues. Arriva is seeking some £200m in damages. The court rejected the DfT’s application.
A DfT spokesman said: “We have taken the decision to cancel the South Eastern franchise competition.
“This follows significant concerns that continuing the competition process would lead to additional costs incurred to the taxpayer, with no certainty that this would deliver envisaged benefits for passengers in a timely fashion.
“The Department will use this period to develop a solution that delivers the capacity and performance benefits that passengers are expecting, and ensure that the recommendations of the Williams Review can be implemented.”
Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown said: “A lot of hard work was put into a strong bid that would have built upon the achievements of Southeastern in recent years in improving performance and customer satisfaction, delivering more capacity and investment.
“Whilst we’re disappointed that our original bid is not being taken forward, we will engage with the DfT on next steps.”
RMT Union leader Mick Cash said: “The cancellation of the competition for the Southeastern franchise shows yet again that the whole privatised rail system is broken and coming apart at the seams.
“You cannot run a serious and reliable rail service on the hoof and yet that is what the Government are doing and passengers paying a small fortune to travel on the Southeastern services will be rightly outraged.
“The only viable alternative to this nonsense is public ownership and that is exactly the model that the Williams Review has explicitly ruled out.”
The Williams Review is due to be published in the Autumn, and former BA chief Keith Williams has already said the franchising system is ‘broken’, and that there is too much involvement by the DfT in running railways.
More in the September issue of The RM
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