Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by Railfuture (Railway Development Society) (PRF 51A)



  On Extent of Franchises, we would support the proposal from Mr Bob Kiley (reported in Local Transport Today, 1 November) that the London commuter franchises be combined into a single franchise unit, or possibly two units, In principle we wish to see the industry in as few pieces as possible. The Network South East sector was one of the most successful innovations under British Rail. Failing a fully integrated network therefore, a reunified Southeast unit (or at most two units) would be the next best option. (It is noted that if Crossrail and Thameslink are implemented in full, TOCs based in East Anglia and Southern region would cover virtually all the old Network Southeast). We recognise however, that such franchise(s) would need to be accountable to a body representing the southeast region as a whole, not just TfL or GLA in London. (Ideally, regional PTAs should be established in all regions).

  On Duration of Franchises, the proposal from Mr Stephen Grant of GTSL (submission PRF 41) for rolling 10 year franchises reviewed and extended (or not) every five years, seems eminently sensible. Under this arrangement, franchises would normally have between five and 10 years to run, and TOCs would be required to submit five-year business plans to the SRA. Where major investment is anticipated, 15 year tenures (still reviewed at five year intervals) might be appropriate.

  We suggest a transitional formula compatible with this proposal. A franchising round expiring in 2010-12 or thereabouts would allow planned medium term investments to be implemented. It would also allow time for the thorough structural review (and any consequent legislation) proposed in our earlier comments. This implies seven year extensions or replacements for current franchises (including GNER) which ran until 2003-4, and five years for a couple of others, so that all franchises come up for renewal in the two year period when the longest original franchises are due to expire. Whatever new structure emerged from the review would come into effect at that date.


  It is essential that at least a workable interim solution for Railtrack is found and implemented within about six months at most, so that the confidence of private sector investors is restored, and existing commitments such as West Coast and Thameslink are not delayed any further. A not-for-profit trust on the model of Welsh Water seems likely to offer the best way forward, but we can see arguments both ways on issues such as vertical integration and independence of the Regulator. Some of these issues may take longer to resolve, as would changes to the charging and support regime, to safety structures post Cullen, and to franchises. Hence the need for the medium term comprehensive structural review we propose.

  These comments prepared by RDS Policy Officers Mike Crowhurst and Richard Pout, 10 November 2001, following sight of selected submissions to the Inquiry and of reports of the committee's sessions.

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