SSRA redraws franchise map
THE SHAPE of Britain's privatised rail industry for the next 20 years was unveiled on June 20, when the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority unveiled its proposed franchise map. This would see the 25 Train Operating Companies created for privatisation reduced to 22 (table). According to Executive Director, Franchise Management, Nick Newton, SSRA expects to replace existing seven-year franchises by 'the back end of next year'.
SSRA wants to see fewer, stronger franchises that can fund investment and 'hold their own in negotiations with Railtrack and other rail companies'. The franchises should make sense in operational terms, reflecting the nature of services operated, rolling stock types and the location of depots. SSRA 'was not convinced' that the BR business units on which the 25 TOCs were based 'were necessarily the right ones with which to go forward.' However, it stressed that the new franchise areas 'can only be indicative'. Their final shape will only be fixed 'following the competitive process', and it will be up to bidders to produce firm proposals.
SSRA has reached agreement with Prism Rail to terminate its Wales & West and Cardiff Railway franchises next year, allowing creation of a single franchise covering Wales & the Borders. Routes in western England could be combined with South West Trains' Waterloo - Exeter line to create Wessex Rail. First North Western and Northern Spirit services would be split between a new Trans-Pennine Express inter-city and a Northern franchise.
SSRA invited proposals for a new Thameslink franchise on June 26, incorporating existing cross-London services and Great Northern routes to be surrendered early by Prism. Combining West Anglia with Great Eastern would restore a 'logical' grouping of services and make the best use of capacity at Liverpool Street.
The Merseyrail Electrics and Island Line franchises are no longer considered to be part of the 'strategic national network', and SSRA is proposing that responsibility for these routes should pass to Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive and the Isle of Wight Council respectively.
- On July 18 National Express Group agreed to take over Prism Rail for £162.5m, giving the company nine of the existing 25 franchises. n
TABLE: Proposed franchises
Long Distance High Speed
InterCity West Coast
InterCity East Coast
Midland Main Line
Network South Central
South West Trains
North London Railways
West Anglia Great Eastern
Wales & the Borders
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