Faster trains for Bath travellers would not be hit by collapse of competition, says Transport Secretary
PLANS for faster train journeys between London and Bath should not be affected by the scrapping of a competition to run rail services on the route says Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
The assurance came as the Cabinet Minister was pressed by MPs over the impact of the cancelled 15-year Great Western franchise on planned investment including the electrification of the mainline, including Bath.
But the Government has been accused by one of the bidders of failing to properly explain why the major contest to operate services on the network was ditched.
Martin Griffiths, the incoming boss of Stagecoach - one of four companies shortlisted for the Great Western franchise - has told a parliamentary inquiry he will be taking the matter up with the Department for Transport.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
The Government is also unable to say how much it will cost the taxpayer for the existing operator First Great Western to continue running services on the network in the wake of the collapsed competition.
It came as the Secretary of State faced close questioning by MPs over the scrapping of the tendering process that had been put on hold following the West Coast mainline fiasco.
But Mr McLoughlin showed no sign of backing away from his refusal to reimburse bidders in the well-advanced franchise competition - FirstGroup; Arriva Trains; National Express; and Stagecoach.
The contest was put on hold after the Government was forced to pull the plug on the controversial West Coast deal, following the discovery of “significant technical flaws” in the way the franchise process had been conducted.
The subsequent cancellation of the Great Western contest will raise concerns that service improvements promised by the lengthy franchise, such as tackling overcrowding and reliability, will not now be realised.
But when quizzed over the implications for the Great Western electrification programme, Mr McLoughlin said: “I do not think it should have any impact on the Great Western electrification programme because it is more Network Rail that will be carrying that out rather than the actual company. I will write to you but I do not think there should be a problem. Obviously, there is a difference between what is expected from Network Rail and what we expect from the rail operators.”
As a result of the contest being shelved, the current operator First Great Western has had its contract extended until October and negotiations will start on a new two-year contract with the company, while plans for the longer term will be set out in the spring.
But on this and another franchise, Clare Moriarty, the DfT’s director general for rail, said: “Those are extensions that are yet to be negotiated and so at the moment we do not know what those costs will be.”
Also giving evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee, which is undertaking an inquiry into rail franchising, was Martin Griffiths, the finance director of Stagecoach who will step up to chief executive in May.
Asked about the cancellation of the Great Western competition, he told MPs: “I have had a letter, again as a bidder, which does not really explain to our satisfaction why the contract has been cancelled. That will be something we will be taking up with the Department for Transport.”