Readers will be aware that the Government’s rail franchising process has been found seriously flawed, de-railing the award of the new franchise for the West Coast Main Line. The new Secretary of State Patrick McLaughlin set up two independent reviews to discover what went wrong and what lessons there are for rail franchising more generally.
So where does that leave us here in Kent? The process of re-letting the South Eastern franchise was due to begin in autumn 2012, with the new franchise supposed to be awarded autumn 2013 and take effect in March 2014. However, on 26 March 2013 it was annouced that the current franchise will be extended until June 2018. This means that the current operator Govia, trading as Southeastern, will continue to run the service until that date.
In September 2012 TLC produced a detailed response to the Department for Transport consultation on the South Eastern franchise. This spelt out several of our long standing demands, including:
Our full response to the consultation explains our position on these and many other key issues.
We have recently written to the Department for Transport to ask how the views we expressed will be taken in account given that the replacement of the franchise is now postponed. In particular we are seeking clarity about the service which will be provided during the redevelopment of London Bridge between now and 2018. We are also concerned that the franchise may now stay in Revenue Support until 2018, a system of additional subsidy which places financial disincentives against running any services over and above those the operator is contractually obliged to provide. This is not in the interests of passengers or the taxpayer.
Whatever happens, rest assured that TLC will continue to campaign for better services at an affordable cost.