The independent review of the government’s rail franchising strategy, following the cancellation of the InterCity West Coast competition, has backed the overall policy while delivering advice for improvements.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin asked Richard Brown, Chairman of Eurostar, to conduct a thorough investigation into how the government should manage its franchising programme following the cancellation of the InterCity West Coast competition last year.
Key conclusions from the Brown review stated that:
- the rail industry works, and that there is no credible case for major structural change (paragraph 1.4, p3)
- passenger numbers have grown by 92% since privatisation… punctuality and passenger satisfaction are running at much improved levels… it is highly unlikely that these successes could have been delivered if franchising was fundamentally flawed (paragraph 1.5, p3)
- we have now had nearly 2 decades’ experience of franchising and therefore a good idea as to what has worked and what still needs to be addressed (paragraph 1.6, p4)
Mr Brown’s report, published by the department today (10 January 2013), recommends that:
- the department’s capability should be strengthened to manage future franchising programmes (paragraph 1.12, p8)
- the bidding and evaluation process for each franchise should be strengthened and simplified (paragraph 3.13, p23)
- plans should be put in place to devolve more English franchises to the relevant authorities (paragraph 5.5, p37)
Richard 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.
To achieve this goal, my review has identified a series of practical proposals and recommendations which, if implemented, will result in a stronger and more effective approach to franchising. In addition, I have provided the department with three broad options for them to consider where a strengthened franchising organisation might be located. As set out in both my review and the Laidlaw Report, the department must look to strengthen its franchising capability as a top priority.
Passengers cannot wait whilst theoretical discussions are held about the structure of railways. It is essential to get on with the franchising programme in order to maintain the momentum of investment in increasing capacity and improving services.
Patrick McLoughlin said:
The review has confirmed that government’s approach to rail franchising system is still the best way to secure the rail services for tax payers 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.
Any delays to the franchising programme will not affect services for rail passengers and they will continue to receive the services they depend upon.
The Brown review was launched by the Department for Transport in October and follows work conducted by Sam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of Centrica and a non-executive DfT board member into what went wrong with the West Coast competition directly. His report was published in December 2012.
The review has recommended that by February the government should publish its plans for the Essex Thameside; Great Western; and the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise competitions which were put on hold last October.
The government considers that, until those plans had been agreed, it would be inappropriate to publish the specific recommendations about these three competitions.
The government is planning to set out a programme for future franchise competitions in the spring alongside a further statement of franchising policy in light of the Brown Review and the Transport Select Committee’s Rail 2020 report.
Notes to editors
The Brown review of the rail franchising programme
Rail franchising written statement by the Secretary of State for Transport, 10 January 2013
Report of the Laidlaw inquiry
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