UK: The Department for Transport has published a prior information notice which would enable it to directly award a contract for the operation of Cross Country services for a maximum of 60 months from the end of Arriva’s current contract in October 2019.

Arriva originally won the Cross Country franchise in 2007, and the services are currently operated by its XC Trains Ltd subsidiary under a three-year direct award contract running from September 2016 to October 2019.

The next franchise was scheduled to be awarded in 2019 following a competitive tender, but the procurement process was put on hold in September when the government announced a comprehensive review of the rail sector. The Cross Country franchise covers regional and long distance services stretching across Great Britain and interfacing with many other operators, and DfT felt this geographical scope could impact on the review’s conclusions.

The review is expected to be completed in 2019, and the government anticipates that any reforms could be implemented from 2020.

European Union rules require authorities planning a direct award to give 12 months’ notice of their intention, and specify a 60 month limit on the contract duration. The publication of the OJEU notice on October 13 leaves DfT with the option to directly award a contract in compliance with the EU rules, but it could also use an alternative method to appoint an operator.

The 12-month notice period covers the UK’s expected departure from the EU on March 29 2019, after which it would no longer be subject to EU procurement rules.