Richard Brown’s review was one of two independent reviews I commissioned following my decision in October last year to cancel the InterCity West Coast (ICWC) franchise competition and put the wider franchising programme on hold. His review considered the wider implications for the rail franchising programme of the position reached on the ICWC competition, taking into account the findings and recommendations of the Laidlaw Inquiry which had focused on establishing what had gone wrong with the ICWC procurement. The report of the Brown Review was laid before the House on 10 January this year.
The review was a thorough examination of the issues led by a highly respected industry figure. I welcomed its publication and its conclusion that franchising is a fundamentally sound approach to securing the provision of passenger rail services on which so many people rely.
The review made a number of important detailed recommendations for improving the way franchises are specified, competed for and managed. The government’s response broadly accepts those recommendations. It records the significant progress we have made over the last six months in implementing them - including restarting the franchise programme, publishing a full revised franchising programme and Prior Information Notice on 26 March and a franchise competition guide on 25 June, and strengthening the capability and governance of the department’s franchising organisation. We have set out a high-level response to each of the many specific recommendations made - indicating where relevant when and where more detailed information will be provided.
I am confident that this response and the actions we have already taken provide the industry with the clarity and confidence it needs about the way forward for rail franchising, which remains an integral part of our plans to deliver a better and more efficient railway for passengers and the taxpayer.