Deutsche Bahn-owned group will surrender rail franchise it has operated since 2003 after withdrawing from the competition for a new contract

 

Arriva has operated the Welsh rail franchise for almost 14 years

 

Incumbent operator Arriva has withdrawn from the competition for the next Wales and Borders rail franchise. This leaves three bidders in contention for the 15-year contract – Abellio, KeolisAmey and MTR.

The Welsh Government intends to appoint an Operator and Development Partner to run the trains from October 2018 and to manage the planned electrification and other modernisation of the Core Valley Lines, north of Cardiff Central. This entailed the bidders partnering with civil engineering companies for the procurement process. Arriva was teamed with construction giant Costain and consultancy Atkins.

The procurement is being undertaken by Transport for Wales, a company owned by the Welsh Government, using an agency agreement with the Department for Transport, pending the transfer of franchising powers to Cardiff Bay.

On Monday a Transport for Wales spokeswoman said: “Arriva Rail Wales have notified Transport for Wales that they intend to withdraw from the bidding process for the next Wales and Borders rail franchise. It is not uncommon for bidders for major projects to withdraw during the tender process and Arriva have been clear they have done this for their own commercial reasons.

“The procurement process is a tough and demanding one and we recognise Arriva’s extensive work to date. We would like to thank the company for their support and positive attitude since the procurement started and we will continue to work closely with the company to ensure that existing staff and customers are central to our transition planning over the next 12 months.

“With final tenders due later this year, we have three companies with world-class credentials each putting their own, distinct cases for how they will deliver the ambitious objectives we set, with the goal of delivering a step change in rail services for passengers across Wales and the Borders.”

This has not been an easy decision and we wish TfW well in concluding this competition.

Asked to explain why the group had withdrawn, an Arrivaspokesperson said: “Arriva is no longer participating in the Wales and Borders competition. This has not been an easy decision and we wish TfW well in concluding this competition. 

“Arriva has been providing rail transport in Wales for almost 14 years and we are proud of the service improvements we have delivered over that period. We will continue to work constructively with TfW to help make the next franchise a success and build upon the legacy that Arriva has built with Arriva Trains Wales.” 

Tom Joyner, who took up his post as ATW managing director this month, said: “We have been notified that Arriva Group have withdrawn from the bidding process for the next Wales and Borders franchise. Our key priority following this announcement is to continue to focus on the delivery of our services for the people and communities that depend on us for the remainder of the current franchise, including a £1m Arriva Trains Wales investment in additional trains which will be introduced in 2018.”

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said that Arriva’s decision to withdraw raised “serious questions” over the procurement process.

Arriva’s withdrawal was greeted with joy by some. Ian Lucas, Labour MP for Wrexham, tweeted that “few tears will be shed” at the news, to which one of his followers responded: “I remember the Labour govt and DfT setting a fifteen year no-growth franchise in 2003.”

ATW has been heavily criticised recently for short-forming trains, particularly on the Valley Lines, leaving some children unable to reach school on time. This arose because storm-related damage and other setbacks depleted ATW’s fleet, which is fully deployed in normal circumstances. Despite the 2003 franchise agreement being predicated on minimal passenger growth, ATW is now running about 25% more trains per day and carrying 60% more passengers than in the franchise’s first year.

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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