Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A new rail franchise for Greater Anglia - the runners and riders

And so, with National Express East Anglia out of the picture, what can we hope for? Well, probably not much, in the short term at least. The franchise up for grabs is for just seventeen months, whilst the Government decide how future rail franchising should be done. Accordingly, it will be just cosmetic changes that can reasonably be expected at first. The big prize is a potential twenty-five year franchise, with control over track maintenance, signalling and infrastructure.

Our first contender, Go-Ahead Group, are involved with three franchises at present - Southern (pretty good), SouthEastern (pretty expensive) and London Midland (notorious for failing to run a Sunday service for lack of drivers). Each of those franchises is operated by Govia, which Go-Ahead Group is a 65% shareholder in. Their partner is Keolis, which in turn is partly owned by SNCF.

They have no experience of running InterCity services, as their only long haul services are slow, stopping services on the West Coast Main Line, and the challenges of the Liverpool Street to Norwich service will test their adaptability.

Nederlandse Spoorwegen is, in fact, the Dutch national railway company. They, of course, run virtually all trains in the Netherlands as part of a properly integrated public transport system, and very efficiently they do it too. Long haul, regional, commuter, they do it all.

In Britain, they are part of the consortium that operates Merseyrail and Northern Rail, neither of which I know much about, but would hope that, left to their own devices, levels of customer service would improve.

Stagecoach, love them or loathe them, you can't argue that they aren't successful. Currently operating South West Trains and East Midlands Trains, and a 49% shareholder in Virgin Trains, they certainly have experience of commuter, regional and InterCity services, and whilst there are ongoing complaints about crowding on South West Trains, that isn't likely to be as much of an issue, particularly at this end of the Anglian Main Line, or on the rural services that link Suffolk with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

Based on organisational reputation, I would probably favour the Dutch contender. However, until we see exactly what the three bidders are offering, it is probably safer to withhold judgement. An anxious travelling public waits with bated breath...

1 comment:

cgcenet said...

Hopefully whoever wins the franchise will give it a sensible name, i.e. one that reflects that it is a *rail* operation, rather than one that sounds like it's a mobile phone operator (e.g. c2c) or is just plain silly (like "one" railway, as the East Anglia franchise used to be called).