Richard Brown’s review of rail refranchising for the Department for Transport sets a challenging end-of-April target for restarting the process

Eurostar chairman Richard Brown has set an end-of-April target for the Department for Transport to set out credible arrangements to restart its rail franchising programme.

The target is in line with industry and ministers’ demands for a rapid resumption. However, Brown warned that meeting it will be a “huge task” for the DfT. Key challenges laid down in his franchising review, commissioned by DfT following the failure of the West Coast competition, include putting extensive new staffing and organisational plans in place.

Brown’s report recommends that the DfT should immediately set up four high quality project teams to run individual franchise competitions, supported by a strengthened programme office. Specialist new commercial and programme management staff would be recruited to provide the DfT with skills and resources equivalent to the companies bidding for its franchise contracts. The process would be overseen by a new franchising director.

By February, Brown said the DfT should set out its plans to take forward the Thameslink, Essex Thameside and Great Western competitions halted when the West Coast competition was cancelled. By Easter (the end of March), the DfT should have implemented recommendations to improve oversight and control of its franchising  processes.

This would pave the way for the DfT to consult the industry on a schedule for reletting all 13 of its franchises due to expire over the next three years, plus the devolved ScotRail and London Overground operations.

Brown anticipates that the schedule published in April will cover competitions for three or four franchises per year and give an indication of any extensions necessary to current franchises to enable this phased approach.

 

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