BEFORE the soul-searching over the future structure of Britain’s railways began after the Hatfield derailment (p689), the process of firming up the existing arrangements was chuntering along steadily. On October 2 the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority unveiled the organisation it will assume once it has shed its shadow next January after the Transport Bill receives Royal Assent, due this month. The SSRA also hoped to publish its own strategic plan this month.

Earlier, on September 14, the SSRA announced the prequalifiers for the Thameslink and Wales & Borders replacement franchises. Nine bidders were chosen for the Thameslink cross-London commuter franchise, of which four included organisations based outside Britain: Connex, FirstGroup with Netherlands Railways, Go-Ahead with Via GTI, and SJ International from Sweden. National Express and Prism Rail, which it is proposing to acquire, each qualified separately, and other successful bidders were Stagecoach, GNER Holdings and GB Railways.

Eight organisations prequalified for the future Wales & Borders franchise in what Franchising Director Mike Grant called a ’strong field of quality contenders’. The hopefuls were Arriva, Connex, FirstGroup, GB Railways, Group 4 Management Services, Prism Rail, Serco Rail, and Via GTI.

During October the industry eagerly awaited the Periodic Review of Railtrack’s access charges from Rail Regulator Tom Winsor, which will set the financial basis for Britain’s railway businesses in the next five years. Winsor had planned to make his announcement during the week of October 15, but because of the Hatfield derailment, he delayed it until October 23. Full analysis of the Periodic Review and of the Hatfield derailment can be found in our fortnightly newsletter for the British railway market, Rail Business Intelligence. To subscribe, call +44 1444 475630 or e-mail: