Rail passengers and other interested groups in Essex are being asked for their views on how train services could be improved, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers announced today (17 February 2012).
The 12 week consultation will give them the opportunity to say what changes and improvements they would like to see delivered by the new Essex Thameside franchise, which will be renewed in May 2013. Bidders will be invited to take on the new 15 year franchise.
This is part of the government’s shake-up of the rail franchising system to improve services and value for money. In future the government intends to set demanding ‘service quality’ standards for train operators to achieve but give them more flexibility on how best to deliver their services.
Theresa Villiers said:
We are determined to ensure that the rail franchising process delivers benefits for passengers and better value for money for taxpayers while enhancing the current level of service.
Over recent years, Whitehall has had too much say in the detail of the way trains are run. I don’t believe that micromanagement is the best way to improve services for passengers. I want to protect the passenger by setting demanding outcomes for operators and give more space to the professionals who run our railways to innovate and decide the best way to achieve them.
This will ensure the rail industry is able to respond more quickly and flexibly to changing passenger concerns. I want passengers and any other groups to tell us what they think about what is important to them. This consultation provides an opportunity for stakeholders to play a key role in shaping the future of the Essex Thameside franchise.
The consultation details what could be expected of the new operator including rolling out smart ticketing technology, improving stations and looking at the possibility of differentiating between ‘metro style’ - high frequency, high capacity - services near London and ‘suburban’ services for the longer-distance journeys into Essex.
Operators will get more flexibility over the services they run but the government intends to continue to mandate the provision of core levels of service. The Department for Transport is also exploring options for measuring operators’ performance against ‘service quality’ standards, based on passenger satisfaction data and ‘mystery shopper’ visits.
The reforms will include replacement of the controversial cap and collar system used in a number of franchises over recent years with an alternative mechanism providing better incentives for operators to invest in service improvements.
Notes to editors
The Essex Thameside consultation, which begins today, closes on the 11 May 2012. The new franchise is due to start on 26 May 2013.
Each weekday 356 train services are run on the route, with 279 services on a Saturday and 160 on a Sunday, carrying over 35 million passenger journeys and 585 million passenger miles per year.
A copy of the full consultation document is available on the department’s website.
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