British rail franchising mannequin is ‘damaged’ – parliamentary committee

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s mannequin of contracting corporations to run rail companies is damaged and the government ought to evaluate it earlier than awarding any extra franchises, a parliamentary committee stated on Friday in findings rejected by the Department for Transport.

FILE PHOTO: On the day that rail fares enhance, passengers arrive at Waterloo Station in London, Britain January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

It highlighted current issues with two franchises – one in London and southeast England, the opposite linking London and Edinburgh – for example what it known as the government’s “completely inadequate” administration of rail contracts.

“The franchising model is broken and passengers are paying the price,” stated Meg Hillier, chair of the cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“If taxpayers are to have any faith in government’s ability to deliver an effective passenger rail network then it must conduct and act on a thorough review before any further franchises are awarded,” she added in a press release.

The criticisms have been rejected by the Department for Transport (DfT) which stated the report had failed to grasp the complexity of the state of affairs and known as it “imbalanced”.

“Our franchising model already puts passengers and taxpayers first,” a spokeswoman for the DfT stated in an emailed assertion.

Passenger and freight rail companies in Britain have been privatised within the 1990s, when routes have been grouped into franchises and operators bid to run companies for a set variety of years. The community infrastructure like observe is owned and managed by the government-owned Network Rail.

The Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise, operated by British company Go-Ahead (GOG.L) and France’s Keolis, was beset with delays, cancellations and strikes in 2016-17, prompting enormous criticism from passengers and lawmakers.

On the East Coast line between London and Edinburgh, the government might find yourself taking on operating companies from Stagecoach (SGC.L) after the UK transport company bought its numbers incorrect, forcing it to wish to pull out early.

That specific franchise has already failed twice, in 2006 and once more in 2009, when the government stepped in to run the road.

In a report, the PAC report criticises the DfT for being unrealistic on a number of fronts, awarding contracts to bidders who had over-promised and failing to recognise the impression of sophisticated rail improve initiatives.

Another downside was the small variety of potential bidders for contracts, it added.

The concept that the franchising mannequin is “broken” performs into the palms of the opposition Labour get together who have pledged to nationalise industries like rail and water .

“It is now clear that public ownership is the only sensible option for the future of rail,” stated Andy McDonald, Labour transport spokesman.

Last November, transport minister Chris Grayling proposed a shake-up of the franchise system, saying he was contemplating making some contracts smaller.

The subsequent rail contract on account of be awarded is for the South Eastern franchise, anticipated later this 12 months.

Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Stephen Addison and Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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