For those of you who wonder what a bureaucrat does in his spare time, I can confirm that one of the things I don't do is sticking pins into wax effigies of National Express East Anglia management. I can't speak for Andrew Adonis though, but if he does, he's pretty good at this voodoo stuff. Less than forty-eight hours after I complained to and about NXEA, it was announced that their franchise will be terminated three years earlier than scheduled, in 2011.
There has been, for some time, a sense that National Express were doing just enough to meet the performance targets built into the franchise agreement. However, the loss of the restaurant car service, the increasingly shabby rolling stock, with faulty toilets and deteriorating standards of cleanliness, and the claims that removing customer service staff would improve the service provided to passengers all pointed towards a corner-cutting, asset-sweating approach by a company in financial difficulties.
Perhaps we will get a better deal from a new franchise agreement this time. It would be nice if passengers were more involved in drawing up such an agreement, although I am not optimistic on that score.
Interestingly, the withdrawal of the last three years of the agreement allows for a bringing together of the currently separate East Anglia and Fenchurch Street to Southend franchises, the latter, held by c2c at the moment. I have little doubt that a foreign bidder will emerge, and that likelihood will only be increased if the two franchises are brought together. The significant commuter traffic from East London and Essex will provide the backbone for the income stream, whilst the rural routes in Norfolk and Suffolk will offer potential growth linked to population growth.
To be honest, I'd been tempted by any bidder who offered to put the breakfast service back at the pre-2009 levels... ah, pork...