Southeastern franchise has been extended to April 2020
The UK government has revealed it has cancelled the competition for the next Southeastern rail franchise citing the Williams Review which is due to be published in the autumn.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed a further extension to the current Southeastern franchise which will now run to the 1 April 2020 rather than expiring on the 10 November 2019. It has also revealed that the competition for the next South Eastern franchise has been terminated.
David Statham, Southeastern’s Managing Director, said: “We’re proud to have delivered more than £80 million of improvements for passengers since we began a new Direct Award contract in 2014. Punctuality has improved by nearly 10 per cent in two years, we’ve introduced free Wi-Fi on our trains and boosted capacity on board with 5,000 extra seats. Over this next extension period, our focus remains squarely on our passengers, delivering more improvements and continuing to improve the punctuality and reliability of our services.”
Go-Ahead Chief Executive, David Brown, said: “A lot of hard work was put into a strong bid that would have built upon the achievements of Southeastern in recent years in improving performance and customer satisfaction, delivering more capacity and investment. Whilst we’re disappointed that our original bid is not being taken forward, we will engage with the DfT on next steps.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson, told the BBC: “We have taken the decision to cancel the Southeastern franchise competition. This follows significant concerns that continuing the competition process would lead to additional costs incurred to the taxpayer, with no certainty that this would deliver envisaged benefits for passengers in a timely fashion. The department will use this period to develop a solution that delivers the capacity and performance benefits that passengers are expecting.”
Mick Cash, General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, told Sky News: “The only viable alternative to this nonsense is public ownership and that is exactly the model that the Williams Review has explicitly ruled out.”
London TravelWatch Chair, Arthur Leathley, commented: “We had hoped that the new franchise could be a catalyst for renewed investment, real passenger benefits and improved performance. Unfortunately, this latest delay, which comes after several previous extensions, means that passengers will potentially lose out and have to wait even longer for the improvements that can come with new franchise investment. However, there could be a silver lining to this in the longer term as the decision might pave the way for devolution of the London services from the current franchise to Transport for London, which would be in line with the current thinking of the Williams Review.”
David Sidebottom, Director of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Southeastern passengers will be disappointed to hear that the promise of improvements to their journeys have been put back again, and will expect greater progress to follow from the Williams Rail Review. Passengers told Transport Focus that they want to see improvements in more punctual, reliable services with enough room to sit and stand. Passengers also want the next franchise operator to deal with delays more effectively when things go wrong. Passengers will now want a dependable plan, setting out exactly when they see the promised benefits.”