Rail passengers in the Thames Valley, the South West and South Wales are being asked for their views on how their rail services should be run, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers has announced.
A consultation launched today (22 December, 2011) will give passengers, local councils and other interested groups the chance to say what improvements and changes they want to see delivered by the new Great Western rail franchise, which is set to be renewed in 2013.
Theresa Villiers said:
This consultation launch represents an excellent opportunity for passengers to make their mark and tell us what changes they think should be made. This is their chance to tell us how train services can better serve passengers.
The franchise will be one of the first to be let on a 15 year term. We will expect the train operator chosen to run the franchise to provide high quality services, deliver improved levels of passenger satisfaction, roll out smart ticketing for thousands more journeys, and invest in improvements that will benefit passengers.
The winning bidder will also need to build successful working relationships with Network Rail aimed at improving efficiency and reducing the cost of running the railways. The coming years will also see a major improvements to Great Western rail infrastructure.
The new franchisee will be responsible for ensuring that overall passenger experience improves throughout the life of the franchise. There will need to be improvements in service quality, retailing and provision of information to customers, particularly during times of planned and unplanned disruption. The franchisee will also need to ensure that train services perform to the highest practical reliability and punctuality standards.
The successful bidder is expected to oversee the introduction of new Intercity Express trains on the route, providing more capacity than the ageing high speed trains they are planned to replace on parts of the franchise. They will also oversee a major increase in capacity on routes into London Paddington - with the number of peak times seats set to increase from around 17,000 today to almost 20,000 in 2019 - and will manage the franchise through major upgrade and electrification work to the Great Western Mainline.
The new franchisee will also take on greater responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of station facilities, ensuring they are attractive gateways to the railway system, as well as being modern, user-friendly interchanges with other modes of transport. Bidders are being encouraged to consider how fares on the route could be simplified and the opportunities for new retailing methods to make buying a ticket easier, such as ‘print at home’ services.
In addition, the franchise will be structured in a way which could allow the transfer of certain responsibilities to local authorities after the awarding of the franchise as the government will soon be consulting on decentralising some responsibilities for local rail services.
Notes for editors
The Great Western Franchise Replacement consultation, which starts today, closes on 31 March 2012. The Department for Transport will produce a summary of the consultation responses alongside the Invitation to Tender, which will be published in May 2012. The winning bidder will be announced in December 2012 with the new franchise set to start in April 2013.
The new operator will be expected to manage the franchise alongside planned upgrades to infrastructure and services, including the provision of extra carriages, the redevelopment of Reading station, the electrification of the line, the Crossrail project, the Intercity Express Programme and the Swindon-Kemble line redoubling.
A copy of the consultation document is available.
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