New Thameslink contract will subsume Southern by July 2017.

The Department for Transport this week invited expressions of interest for the operation of three UK rail franchises that will reshape the rail map.

The new Thameslink, Essex Thameside and Great Western contracts are the first of a new generation of franchise that will see train operators take on greater responsibility for stations, infrastructure upgrades and, in some cases, rolling stock procurement.

The Thameslink franchise will run for a seven-year duration with the opportunity for a two-year extension at the discretion of the secretary of state. During this period the franchise will support the completion of the Thameslink project, deployment of the new train fleet and the introduction of a new consolidated Thameslink passenger timetable.

Between April and December 2014 it will take on Southeastern’s services on the Thameslink route. However, the biggest transformation is that the Thameslink franchise will subsume the entire Southern franchise at some point between July 2014 and July 2017.

Govia currently operates the Southern franchise in a deal that is due to expire in July 2015 with the possibility of extension to 2017.

The Essex Thameside and Great Western franchises will run for 15 years from May and April 2013 respectively. Both include a mechanism for either profit sharing with the possibility of a mechanism for sharing revenue risk linked to economic factors.

Bids for Great Western will be on the basis of surrendering operation of Heathrow Connect services to the Crossrail operator from May 2018. The full Crossrail service will also replace the majority of relief line services into London Paddington from Maidenhead in December 2019.

Bidders have also been asked to examine options for the western access and the Airtrack Lite proposals to expand rail services at Heathrow Airport. Meanwhile, the successful franchisee will also be responsible for procurement of a new fleet of EMUs to take advantage of electrification of the Great Western route to Cardiff and introduction of the IEP train fleet later in the decade.

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport. Click here to subscribe.