West Coast franchise plans aim to tackle overcrowding


Proposals for the next InterCity West Coast (ICWC) rail franchise, include a possible reduction of first class and the use of ‘smart technology’ to encourage people to travel at quieter times.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has published a consultation on planned improvements for the new franchise, which will begin in 2018.

The current franchise currently operates as Virgin Trains

The document acknowledges that trains on some routes are currently very busy, with high levels of crowding and difficulty moving through the train representing ‘key concerns for passengers’.

It acknowledges that capacity for extra trains on the line is limited ‘and will remain so until additional capacity is provided by HS2’.

In the meantime, it says: ‘Bidders will be asked to consider innovative solutions to address capacity issues such as changing the balance of first and standard class provision on carriages or by encouraging more passengers to travel at quieter times where they have the option to do so.

‘This might be through new ticketing schemes which could be linked to smart technology or providing passengers with better information on which are the busiest services and train carriages.’

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘We are investing a record £38bn in our railways to deliver better journeys for passengers, and it is essential that passengers’ needs are at the heart of franchises in order to build on this investment.

‘The ICWC line covers a vitally important part of our rail network, linking major cities in England, Scotland, and Wales. I want to see improvements to customer satisfaction, investment and better journeys for passengers during the next franchise.’

The franchise runs between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Holyhead and is currently run by a consortium of Virgin and Stagecoach, branded as Virgin Trains.

The DfT said the consultation will help to shape the invitation to tender later this year. The winning bidder will be announced in November 2017, in time for the franchise to begin in April 2018.


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