The government this week published its rail franchising timetable for the next eight years, with new contracts delayed by up to 50 months

The scale of the delays to the franchising process caused by the botched West Coast competition was exposed this week when the Department for Transport published its new refranchising timetable.

Only three of 16 franchises in the timetable will expire on the previously intended date. The other franchises will be extended by a period of up to 50 months.

Added together, the delays to the new franchise agreements amount to 26 years and seven months. Critics say this hiatus will delay investment and prevent the taxpayer from extracting the best deal from the franchise holders.

Only three new franchises – Essex Thameside, Thameslink/Southern and East Coast – will begin between now and the next general election in May 2015.

The DfT said it was the first ever detailed, transparent timetable for all rail franchises over eight years.

“Franchising has been a force for good in the story of Britain’s railways, transforming an industry that was in decline into one that today carries record numbers of passengers,” said transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle attacked the early retendering of East Coast, which has been run by the government since 2009. “It is completely the wrong decision to focus obsessively on an unnecessary privatisation of … East Coast, instead of prioritising getting the existing stalled franchise programme back on track,” she said.


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