Sunday, 15 May 2011

First takes early exit from Great Western franchise

It is reported that, in order to seek a longer franchise on better terms, First Group is not taking the option of extending its current deal by a further three years to 2016. The Telegraph also comments that in view of other pressures on First's accounts that it is a shrewd move, saving the company £826 million in future payments to the government. First also has the problem of replacing its HS125 stock, which is surely not capable of a further life extension.

First will not necessarily be successful in the bidding process. Virgin and Arriva will surely attracted by a franchise which fits in with their other rail interests - though, in the case of the latter, perhaps too closely in Wales for those concerned about monopolies. Electrification is due to be completed by 2017. Assuming that the next franchise is for ten years, after four years of disruption due to engineering work the successful bidder will be able to enjoy six of increased traffic on the London-Cardiff and London-Bristol routes.

 There is also speculation that Veolia might want to join the party, but, in view of their recent bus retrenchment in Wales, this seems unlikely.

What will this complicated process mean for the poor rail traveller and taxpayer? Precious little difference, I would have thought, but it is a system which has survived two changes of government and no doubt suits HM Treasury. No doubt, commuters in the London travel-to-work area may have some influence, but Welsh rail travellers will be well down the pecking order.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the government is persuaded to electrify the entire line all the way to Swansea.