DfT keeps quiet on rail franchise mismatches


The Government has declined to reveal which rail contracts have been awarded without the necessary infrastructure in place to make good on the deal, after Transport Network exclusively revealed a new approval process has been put in place to prevent such a situation happening again.

Rail insiders say contenders for these mismatched contracts include the East Coast Mainline, Northern and Wales, as well as the commuter lines into London.


Rob McIntosh, managing director for Network Rail's London, North Eastern and East Midlands route, recently commented: ‘I’m worried that the East Coast programme has been founded on geographically identified investments…but the asset that connects those geographic bottlenecks is tired and in need of more renewals investment than we are currently allocated in the settlement.'

Following the news that previous contracts had beeen let without correct supporting infrastructure, the RMT union criticised the Government for presiding over ‘a total mess’.

A spokesman said: ‘After 20 years of privatisation they are still making it up as they go along. It seems like they have recognised a problem and that they have made mistakes but they are trying to address it midstream. It’s locking the stable when the horse is halfway round the track.’

Earlier this week, Mark Carne chief executive of Network Rail, told Transport Network of a new approval process to prevent the problem of mismatched franchise deals. Mr Carne stated that in the past ‘there have been cases where the franchise was awarded when the capacity was not there’ but would not specify particular contracts.

Transport Network asked the Department for Transport (DfT), which contracts had been awarded without the necessary infrastructure to back them up and whether the department was aware of the situation prior to awarding the contracts. In response a spokesperson said: ‘We continue to work closely with Network Rail from the very earliest stages of the franchising process.

‘We now have an embedded Network Rail member of staff in each competition team and an established ‘single point of contact’ process to ensure a steady flow of information between Network Rail and the DfT. This allows them to be heavily involved in the process of working up proposals and to provide assurances that they can be delivered.’

The DfT stressed that is had worked with Network Rail under an approval system for franchises since 2006 but would not comment on any possible mismatches of franchise deals and infrastructure or whether it knew there was a problem prior to the awards. 

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