Press release

New Great Western franchise to deliver new express trains

Extra local services on the Truro to Falmouth, Par to Newquay and the Severn Beach Lines added to 15 year Great Western franchise.

The new 15 year Great Western franchise will see passengers benefit from new express trains, additional capacity, smart card ticketing and passenger satisfaction targets as part of proposals being put forward today (27 July 2012) by Rail Minister Theresa Villiers.

The number of train services required by the new franchise will be based broadly on the current timetable, rather than the contracted minimum in the existing franchise. The popular sleeper service to Penzance will be retained. An extra early, fast train from London to Plymouth will be introduced. This will achieve aspirations for a ‘there and back in a day’ service to Plymouth from the capital.

Successful extra local services such as those on the Truro to Falmouth, Par to Newquay and the Severn Beach Lines, including those which are locally funded at present, are being added to the base specification of the franchise. This recognises the valuable work and track record of investment made by local stakeholders. Full responsibility for funding these local schemes is expected to pass to the Department for Transport from 2015, securing their future and freeing up local resources for other transport priorities.

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said:

Passengers using the Great Western Line will benefit from major infrastructure improvements and new rolling stock over the next few years, as a result of the government’s ambitious programme of rail improvements, including extensive electrification.

For the first time on the Great Western franchise, we will be introducing requirements on passenger satisfaction for the train operator to meet which will mean they have to focus strongly on the issues that matter the most to passengers. Extending smart card ticketing across the franchise will provide many more passengers across the West and South West with the kind of convenience Oyster has brought to Londoners. The Sleeper train is being retained, Plymouth gets the new early train from London they asked for and the future of popular extra local services such as the Severn Beach Line and Truro to Falmouth has been secured.

This new franchise will see additional capacity delivered to benefit passengers. A more efficient and flexible franchise will encourage private sector investment, for example in improving stations and investing in rolling stock. It will promote greater efficiency and also enable the train operator to react to more effectively to changing passenger demands.

The new franchise will run for 15 years from July 2013 to July 2028. It will require broadly the same number of trains to run between end-to-end destinations as is the case today, while giving the new operator greater flexibility with regard to timetabling and calling patterns and, in certain instances, use of connecting trains.

This flexibility will help ensure the line is used in the most efficient way for passengers and potentially allow faster journey times and improved services. It will also encourage private sector investment in the franchise, including stations.

A final decision has not yet been taken on the exact number of through services between Paddington and Penzance. The invitation to tender (ITT) requires the continuation of 9 journey opportunities between London and Penzance each day (in addition to the Sleeper) with at least 6 being provided by through trains. After discussions with local MPs and Cornwall Council, the government is asking the bidders to explore with stakeholders how rail services in Cornwall might be improved to ensure the right balance between long distance and regional services is achieved. The ITT therefore requires bidders to provide a price for additional through journeys above the minimum and also for a half hourly regional service on the Cornish main line. Decisions on whether these options are affordable and can go ahead will be taken prior to the new franchise being agreed.

A number of other options which could help to further improve local services have been included which potential operators are invited to consider and provide pricing for so that they can be taken forward if a value for money solution is provided and local funding is available.

Notes to editors

Details published of the new franchise that will begin from 21 July 2013, are set out by the department in the invitation to tender (ITT).

The invitation to tender follows a consultation designed to give the public and stakeholders a chance to have their say on what they wanted from the new franchise.

The proposed train service requirement for the operation of the Great Western franchise represents a change from the rigid timetable specification of the past, while retaining obligations that protect the key outcomes for passengers and taxpayers, such as principal first and last trains and minimum numbers of station stops per week and per day. This marks a significant shift from the micro-management that has prevented operators from maximising capacity and optimising timetables to react to the changing demands of their passengers in the past.

The 4 shortlisted bidders from run the franchise from July 2013 are:

  • First Great Western Trains Limited (FirstGroup plc)
  • GW Trains Limited (Arriva UK Trains Limited - DB (UK) Investments Limited)
  • NXGW Trains Limited (National Express Group PLC)
  • Stagecoach Great Western Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc)

Bids for the franchise are expected to be received in October 2012 and the new operator will be announced in March 2013. The new Great Western franchise will run until July 2028, with an option for the department to extend for up to 7 reporting periods.

When the government set out its plans on franchise reform, it acknowledged that each franchise contract needs to reflect the different characteristics of the lines and services it covers. Therefore the requirements set out in the Great Western Franchise may not necessarily become standard terms in every subsequent rail franchise.

The ITT for the Great Western Franchise follows the current agreed regulated fares policy as set out in the 2011 comprehensive spending review - a rise in 2012 of RPI+1% and RPI+3% for 2013 and 2014, returning to RPI+1% thereafter. Over the long term we are committed to reducing the cost of running the railways and the goal of ending the era of above-inflation fare increases.

Local services which are expected to move from local to national funding in 2015 include:

Service Description Funding Body
Bristol TM to Severn Beach (frequency increase) Bristol City Council
Bristol TM to Severn Beach (Sundays) South Gloucestershire Council
Truro - Falmouth (all week frequency increase) Cornwall Council
Exeter - Barnstaple (additional M-F and additional Sundays) Devon County Council

Priced options: The ITT asks bidders to price the following improvements to services:

1) Services to Cornwall Continued operation of 9 through services. Provision of a half hourly, regular service between Plymouth and Penzance or Exeter, from May 2017 when cascaded rolling stock is anticipated to become available.
2) TransWilts Rail (Phase 1) Additional weekday rail services and reinstatement of Sunday services from Salisbury to Swindon via Melksham
3) Riviera Line (Exeter to Paignton) strengthening Introduction of an additional 1tph service on the Riviera line from Newton Abbot to Paignton
4) Heart of Wessex Line Service Optimisation A much strengthened service on the Heart of Wessex line between Bristol and Weymouth
5) Bristol Metro Phase 1 An advanced scheme developed by the West of England Partnership. Phase 1 will provide a half hourly service in the Greater Bristol Metropolitan Area including re-opening of the rail line to Portishead to passenger services
6) Devon Metro Devon Metro follows a similar concept to Bristol Metro for local services into Exeter, from Exmouth, Barnstaple, Newton Abbot and Paignton. It also proposes additional, new services on the SWT route to Axminster and to Okehampton
7) Cornish Branch Line service enhancements St Ives Trains extended to Penzance. Additional summer, Monday-Saturday Looe Valley Services
8) Tavistock-Bere Alston re-opening Re-opening of the rail line from Bere Alston to Tavistock

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