Ditch franchise for Thameslink, says MP
AN MP has called for a major change to the way trains are run on the Thameslink route.
Luton South MP Gavin Shuker says he wants the service to be run not by a franchisee but under a less profitable management contract.
The Labour MP says current franchise holder First Capital Connect has “driven up prices while customer satisfaction has remained stubbornly low”.
Following the government’s mishandling of the West Coast Mainline franchise process, Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains launched a legal bid to expose inadequacies in the Department for Transport’s approach.
All pending franchise agreements were put on hold while the process was reviewed.
Richard Brown, the Eurostar Chairman, was tasked with reviewing rail franchising, and concluded that the new Thameslink franchise was a good candidate for letting under a management contract.
Under a franchise agreement, the Department for Transport’s decision about who should get a contract is usually based on how much money a bidder will pay back to the government. Critics say this gives an incentive to drive down standards and drive up profits.
Under a management contract the agreement is much more restrictive – defining how much money it expects to receive and getting train operating companies to compete over the quality of the service delivered. In practice it is far less profitable for the train operating company too, says Mr Shuker.
He said: “As a commuter, I know how frustrating their frequent delays and poor communication can be.
“It’s about time to put customers first and run this line through a management contract.
“Government should set the standards it expects, and the money it expects. And if train operators think the taxpayer is driving too hard a bargain, they don’t have to bid.’
“Long term, we need to completely rethink how to fix the botched Tory privatisation of our railways. But right now, government should put passengers first, starting with Thameslink.”
Management contracts have been used in the past when major upgrade works are being implemented – such as the ongoing work on the Thameslink route.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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