Ed Thomas, Director at KPMG’s transport advisory group, comments on the outcome of the West Coast rail franchise competition:
“Following a review of policy West Coast is the first ‘new-style’ rail franchise let by the Coalition government. At 14 years, the contract is almost double the length of most franchises let to date. Government hopes that the new longer contracts will encourage bidders both to invest more of their own money in the network and to cut down on operating costs by forming long term partnerships with other industry parties, notably Network Rail.
“West Coast services are notorious for being overcrowded on Friday evenings and on weekends. Good news for passengers is that early in the new franchise, the Pendolino trains will be extended from 9 cars to 11 cars bringing much needed additional capacity. Under new powers, FirstGroup will also have a mandate to improve the stations on the line, some of which are in urgent need of investment.
“West Coast is only the beginning of a process which will see the UK rail market enter its most intense period of activity since privatisation. Around three quarters of franchises will be re-competed in the next three years with several of the UK transport groups having their entire rail portfolios coming to the market. With a number of European players such as Deutsche Bahn, SNCF, TranItalia, Renfe from Spain and the Dutch operator Abellio also seeking to increase their UK presence, the competition for franchises is set to become increasingly intense.”
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