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Franchising: the future

What is happening now?

Transport Focus is engaged in influencing all the live franchising competitions and direct awards. Details of our activity are given on the individual franchise pages. We also provide regular updates through our Passenger Voice e-newsletter for passengers, stakeholders and user groups.

A summary of key dates for the Department for Transport (DfT) franchise replacement programme and related documents are available on its rail franchising publications page. The DfT has established a new organisational and project management structure and the Passenger Services Directorate is now responsible for passenger rail franchises.

Several new franchises have started operation since 2014 including Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern, Essex ThamesideEast Coast, Northern and TransPennine Express. These franchises include a range of benefits for passengers including National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) targets to reflect passenger satisfaction with key elements of the service and the introduction of Customer Reports that set out a franchisee’s promises and commitments to its customers.

Transport Scotland also ran competitions for two new franchises, with ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper both starting operation in 2015.

Transport for London (TfL) ran competitions to find an operator for the new Crossrail concession and a new operator for London Overground services. MTR Corporation were awarded the Crossrail contract and began operating services over the existing infrastructure in May 2015. In March 2016 TfL announced that Arriva would begin operating London Overground services from November 2016.

Several franchises are currently being operated under short term contracts (direct awards) in which the DfT has negotiated to allow the existing operator to continue running services until a full franchise is let. These are; East Anglia, West Midlands, West Coast, South Eastern, East Midlands and Great Western. A direct award is anticipated for the CrossCountry franchise from late 2016 until October 2019.

Following a consultation in 2015, shortlisted bidders for the East Anglia franchise submitted their proposals in February 2016. Transport Focus contributed to the assessment of the customer experience elements of the bidders’ proposals. The DfT are expected to announce the award of this contract in summer 2016.

Several franchise competitions are currently underway; a new South Western contract is due to start in June 2017, the West Midlands contract is due to start in October 2017 and the West Coast contract is due to start in April 2018. We hold detailed discussions with DfT to identify key passenger issues for each of these franchises.

Three further franchise competitions are due to begin in 2016; South Eastern, East Midlands and Wales and Borders.

The Transport Focus role

Influencing the specification and content of new contracts represents a major opportunity to secure benefits for passengers. Consequently, franchising is a key theme in our work plan.

Our input into franchising makes extensive use of the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) and draws on other research. Where possible we commission specific research to explore passengers’ views of their current experience and aspirations for each franchise. In 2014 we carried out research to identify rail passengers’ priorities for improvements across the country and are also using this information in our franchising discussions.

We work closely with the DfT and devolved bodies in the early stages of developing a new franchise specification and generally provide an initial written submission for each franchise and for proposed direct awards. We encourage passenger feedback in the consultation process and publish our own response to the consultation. We continue to liaise and discuss passenger aspirations and priorities with prospective bidders and newly appointed franchisees to encourage passenger focused policies. We have also provided advice on bidders’ proposals for the customer experience elements to the evaluators of recent franchises.

Following the contract award we continue to liaise with the franchisee to hold them to account for continued improvement in delivery of service using NRPS and data from the complaint appeals that are referred to us. We also comment on their Passenger’s Charter, Complaints Handling Procedure and Disabled People’s Protection Policy.

Click here for links to our research and publications about what passengers want from their railway. Other work is also available on other parts of our website.

Back to Franchising – the future of your railway 

To view our National Rail Passenger Survey reports or to access these and our appeal complaints data through our Open Data tool, please click on the links below:

 NRPS                                                                            Open data


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