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Monday, May 27, 2024

Brown report: 'No credible case for major structural change'

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An independent review into franchising has said that although the system is not broken, the government needs to restart paused programmes quickly to restore public confidence in the DfT.

Chief executive of Eurostar Richard Brown, who conducted the review, believed there was “no credible case for major structural change”.

The review has recommended that by February the government should publish its plans for the Essex Thameside, Great Western, Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise competitions, which were put on hold last October.

Richard Brown said: “In carrying out this review, I have come to the conclusion that the franchising system is not broken, but rather it has made a major contribution to Britain’s increasingly successful rail network. It is therefore essential for both passengers and the wider rail market that the franchising programme is restarted as soon as possible.

“To achieve this goal, my review has identified a series of practical proposals and recommendations which, if implemented, will result in a stronger and more effective approach to franchising.

“In addition, I have provided the department with three broad options for them to consider where a strengthened franchising organisation might be located. As set out in both my review and the Laidlaw Report, the department must look to strengthen its franchising capability as a top priority.

“Passengers cannot wait whilst theoretical discussions are held about the structure of railways.

“It is essential to get on with the franchising programme in order to maintain the momentum of investment in increasing capacity and improving services.”

The Brown review was launched by the Department for Transport (DfT) in October and follows work conducted by Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centrica, and a non-executive DfT board member into what went wrong with the West Coast competition.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “The review has confirmed that government’s approach to rail franchising system is still the best way to secure the rail services for tax payers and fare payers alike. It has identified a number of detailed improvements, which I will carefully consider before publishing a further statement regarding the government’s franchising policy in the spring.”

The government is planning to set out a programme for future franchise competitions in the spring alongside a further statement of franchising policy in light of the Brown Review and the Transport Select Committee’s Rail 2020 report.

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