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The government’s proposals for the future of rail services between London and Worcestershire, published today, have been described as “lacking in vision” by the MP for the Worcestershire section of the North Cotswold line, Peter Luff.

The Department for Transport has issued a detailed invitation to tender (ITT) for the Great Western franchise, but the specification includes no service improvements for trains to London from the county, and no mention of the need for a Worcestershire Parkway station.

However, the department has said,

“We expect bidders to respond to the increased flexibility provided in the ITT by developing innovative proposals to meet future demand for passenger services, while supporting the economic growth of the areas which depend on the Great Western railway.”

Peter commented,

“I was looking for three things from this document – more trains, a minimum hourly service and a commitment to the Parkway station. Instead all we are promised is the status quo.

“I know the service is now much more reliable after the significant doubling of the line, and the reintroduction of the superior Adelante trains onto the route have made journeys more comfortable. These are big steps forward.

“But the massive investment in the redoubling will be largely wasted if we don’t also get more trains between Worcester, Pershore, Evesham, Honeybourne and Oxford and London.

“The really worrying thing is that the new franchise will run for fifteen years, so this could be our last chance for a long time to get the service improvements we need. I will be asking the government to look again at the specifications they have set out and challenging the four bidders for the franchise to tell me how they will better the minimum services set out in the tender document.

“It’s not the end of the story. These companies can offer a service that exceeds the government’s requirements. I think they should – and if they do so they will be rewarded by more passengers and more revenues on a line that is shockingly badly served when it comes to frequency of trains.”


Note to editors

A letter from the Department for Transport sent to MPs explains the background:

The Department for Transport has today published an Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the operation of Great Western services from 21 July 2013 until 23 July 2028.

We have opted for a 15 year franchise so that there is one operator to see through the introduction of new rolling stock and manage the period during which major infrastructure work will take place as part of the Government’s ambitious programme to expand capacity on our railways.

The ITT also provides greater flexibility than has been the case for other franchises agreed in recent years, to enable more decisions to be taken by those who run train services rather than in Whitehall. This is consistent both with the Government’s rail franchising reforms and its general approach to public service provision. We believe that a longer, more flexible franchise will encourage private sector investment (for example in stations), deliver better overall outcomes for passengers and help us
ensure that we make the best use we can of the Great Western rail network.

We expect bidders to respond to the increased flexibility provided in the ITT by developing innovative proposals to meet future demand for passenger services, while supporting the economic growth of the areaswhich depend on the Great Western railway.

The new franchise will require broadly the same number of trains to run between end-to-end destinations as it the case today, while giving the new operator greater flexibility over timetabling, station calls and, in some instances, use of connecting trains. We believe this will be an effective way to protect passenger interests without seeking to prescribe the exact detail of train services over a 15 year period.

The new franchise will require the operator to achieve specified outcomes on passenger satisfaction and service quality. These will be derived from research on priorities for Great Western passengers. For the first time these requirements will be rebased during the 15 year life of the franchise to reflect the evolving views of passengers.

The new operator will also be obliged to introduce smart ticketing across the franchise and this will be supported by new infrastructure funded by the DfT’s South East Flexible Ticketing programme and our ITSO on Prestige project. Smart ticketing will provide significant benefits for passengers and the use of the ITSO specification will allow the same card to be used on a range of different public transport services.

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