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Sunday, June 23, 2024

West Coast has questioned future of franchise system

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Transport committee member John Leech has said that although he believes the current system is flawed he sees no way of creating a fair process that looks at more than the financial return.

The Liberal Democrat MP for South Manchester spoke to Rail.co after questioning Virgin and FirstGroup bosses on Monday.

Mr Leech also said that he believed that if an operator hands back the keys to one franchise it should be stripped of any others.

“I’m not sure what changes you could make to the franchise system which wouldn’t still mean it’s flawed without giving the current operator an unfair advantage,” said Leech.

“It should be the case that you can add weight to an operator’s success on customer service on increasing passengers on basically doing a good job but then that really isn’t fair because other operators aren’t able to say ‘well this is what we’ve done’.

“The only real other model of operation would be a free-for-all open access system which would be absolutely barmy or a denationalisation of the railways, and while I might have some sympathy with the argument that the railways may or could be better run if they were in the public sector, the evidence from when they were in the public sector suggests that they weren’t exactly great before privatisation.

“I think some people often look back through rose-tinted glasses about how good or bad the railways were.”

With a date yet to be set for a preliminary hearing over the West Coast following Virgin’s legal challenge, Leech said MPs had been given no indication as to when the contracts would be signed.

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