The Government has dropped plans to split the Great Western rail franchise after they were roundly rejected in a consultation.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has published the results of its consultation on the future of the franchise, which show that ‘78% of respondents who expressed a view stating that they did not agree with the proposal as set out’.
A GWR bi-mode train
In November 2017 the DfT announced ‘proposals’ to split the franchise ‘to maintain the strongest possible focus on passengers’.
However, in July of this year, transport secretary Chris Grayling gave the Commons Transport Committee a ‘sneak preview’ of the consultation outcome.
He said: ‘Having consulted, the general view is that we should not, and therefore we will not.’
Mr Grayling claimed: ‘It was a genuine open question. Some people suggested that it might be a good idea to give the South-West its own franchise.’
Ministers also announced last November that they were extending the current Great Western franchise until March 2002. The DfT would ‘seek to agree terms’ for the current operator, First Group to continue operating until 2022, ‘which will to allow the improved services to bed in fully before running a competition for a new long-term franchise’.
The consultation therefore covered the service to be provided by First Group during the proposed further franchise extension, as well as the new franchise.
On the issue of fares and ticketing, respondents’ priorities included the availability of flexible season ticket products suitable for passengers travelling fewer than five days a week.
The DfT said it would ‘work with FirstGroup to consider the feasibility and affordability of developing products for part-time commuters, possibly on a pilot basis targeting specific journeys where the fares structure is least favourable to these passengers’.
It said it would ‘also require FirstGroup to set out plans to facilitate increased take-up of new ticketing options such as smart cards and mobile tickets’.
A spokesperson for the DfT said that more information on the contract extension would be announced ‘in due course’.