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Thursday, June 13, 2024

DfT issue invitation to tender for the West Coast rail franchise

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An invitation to tender for the West Coast franchise has been issued by the Department for Transport.

Although the successful bidder will have to provide principal first and last trains, along with a minimum number of station stops per week, they will also be given, from December 2013, the freedom to vary timetables on individual days in order to better meet demand. This is a major shift from the previous micro-management stance of the DfT. Passengers will reap additional benefits, equating to 28,000 extra seats, with the introduction of 4 new Pendolino trains and the lengthening to 11 carriages of 31 Pendolnos.

The franchise winner will take on responsibility for 17 stations, encouraging them to invest in them, on a 99 year lease from Network Rail, which will receive a peppercorn rent.

Birmingham International station, which serves the city’s airport, is also in line for a new name from May, 2014. A name that reflects its position next to the airport has been called for over many years.

The new franchise will commence in December, with the winner being announced in August, and run until 2026, with an option to extend it for a further 20 months. Originally the franchise was to expire in March, but was extended to allow the Pendolino lengthening project to continue.

Under a section 54 agreement the franchise holder must continue to use Pendolinos until March 2022 and Voyagers until March 2016. After this the franchisee is free to propose changes to the fleet.

The four bidders for this prestigious franchise are First Group, Abellio, Keolis/SNCF and Virgin. Bids are expected to be in by May.

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