DfT to extend West Coast franchise until 2019 ahead of new WCP
A short-term contract will be needed to deliver services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) for a year after the current franchise ends, prior to the delivery of the new West Coast Partnership (WCP), the DfT has confirmed.
From 1 April 2019, the WCML will be run as a new franchise in combination with HS2. However, this creates a need for an operator to run the franchise after the current contract, which is held by Virgin Trains, ends on 1 April 2018.
The DfT has therefore published a prior information notice for the contract. It is intended to run for 12 months, but includes the option of being extended for a further year at the discretion of the transport secretary. The notice informs the incumbent train operator and other TOCs that the department will seek to obtain a direct award for the short-term contract.
According to the notice, the new operator will be required to maintain the same level of service, of around 300 trains a day, but also to deliver changes to accommodate HS2.
Other objectives which are likely to be included in the contract are improving the passenger experience, as measured in the National Rail Passenger Survey, and improving the franchise’s PPM performance.
The operator will also need to implement reforms which are now standard requirements in DfT policy, including providing free wi-fi, smart ticketing and compensation after 15 minute delays, which has already been introduced on Govia Thameslink Railway.
The WCML provides express train services from London Euston to the West Midlands, North West England, North Wales and Scotland.
(Image c. mattbuck)
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