Passengers across London, the south east, Sussex and the south coast are being asked for their views to help shape a major new franchise for train services across their area, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers announced today (31 May 2012).
The franchise is expected to cover most of the existing First Capital Connect franchise, including the Thameslink line which is undergoing a £6 billion upgrade. Services currently run by Southern will be added to the new combined franchise from 2015. This would see a single train operator to take responsibility for all rail services from Brighton to King’s Lynn and Southampton to Ashford with London at the heart, creating the largest franchise in the UK rail market.
The consultation launched today gives local communities across the areas covered by the new franchise a chance to say what train services they would like to see run by the winning operator. It also asks the views of potential bidders on how they will improve the experience of passengers.
Theresa Villiers said:
This new franchise will be a key part of public transport in London and the south of England. Before we set the terms of the franchise and choose who will operate it, we want to hear a wide range of views on the services passengers want.
We are also seeking views on how to maximise the benefits of the Thameslink upgrade and how they should be shared between different communities along the line.
This consultation outlines a number of standards we expect any new operator to deliver as a matter of course, including improvements to stations, better ticket-buying facilities and passenger information and good levels of punctuality. But we also want passengers, and anyone else with an interest in improving the railways, to tell us about other ways in which they think services could be better.
The combined franchise is due to start in September 2013 and run for a minimum of 7 years. The consultation commences on 31 May 2012 and closes on 23 August 2012.
Notes to editors
The combined Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise (known as ‘the combined franchise’) would bring together the services currently operated by 2 franchisees: First Capital Connect (FCC), in 2013 and from July 2015 Southern (including Gatwick Express). However, final decisions have yet to be made on whether all Great Northern services (currently run by FCC) will be included in the new franchise since some may be transferred to the next InterCity East Coast franchise. The combined franchise will also include a number of services now delivered by Southeastern, to be added in 2014 and 2018.
The combined franchise would be responsible for delivering rail services across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Greater London, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk, Surrey and Sussex. This would make it the biggest franchise that has ever been let. When all the services have been incorporated, it would have the largest income, most trains and most staff of any franchise in the UK rail market.
The consultation exercise will help inform what we include in the Invitation to Tender (ITT) which is scheduled to be released in October 2012. The ITT will:
- require bidders to set out how they will successfully deliver the challenges in this franchise and integrate services to improve the overall service offered to passengers
- set out a framework of incentives to allow bidders to develop and enhance services, where appropriate, but also strikes the right balance between commercial freedom for the operator and ensuring that interests of passengers, taxpayers and the economy are suitably protected
We expect bidders to develop an appropriate vision for the franchise. Bidders will need to take into account value for money, affordability and the deliverability of their plans.
A copy of the consultation documents is available on the DfT website:
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