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DfT promises to publish franchise performance data every four weeks

Rail minister Paul Maynard has promised that the DfT will publish information about each rail franchise’s performance against its contractual benchmarks every four weeks.

Maynard made the commitment in a letter to Louise Ellman MP, head of the Transport Select Committee, before appearing at an inquiry hearing into rail franchising.

Ellman had written urging him to fulfil the committee’s recommendation, in a recent report into the struggling Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise, that the department publish performance information about operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

She said: “I am pleased that the department has accepted the case for greater transparency made by my committee.

“As a committee we were continuously frustrated by the lack of information on the performance of individual rail companies during our recent inquires. GTR was a particular concern, given the abysmal service that commuters have been forced to endure.”

“There is a great deal of work still to do but this is a positive start. In evidence to the Committee yesterday, Mr Maynard committed to putting the passenger first and recognised the need for the department to ‘get on with it’. We will watch carefully to see how the government delivers on this new commitment to transparency and how quickly these arrangements can be brought in.”

In his letter, Maynard admitted that existing franchise agreements “may need to be amended” to account for the change in information publishing, and the department would need to consider how to manage the new policy in relation to “commercial and market sensitivities”.

He published GTR’s performance information with his letter. This showed that in the most recent period for which figures are available, from 21 August to 17 September, it was in excess of breach and default levels for cancellations and short formation of peak trains.

The breach level for cancellations is 2.42%, and the default is 2.75%. However, GTR cancellations for the period were at 4.79%. Similarly, peak short form trains were at 2% against a 1.4% breach level and a 1.58% default.

However, Maynard said the department was currently unable to determine GTR’s final performance because it has applied for force majeure, where a contractor says it is not meeting its contractual obligations for reasons beyond its control. GTR said this was due to ‘official and unofficial strike action’ by RMT.

Maynard added that assessing the force majeure claim, which represents over 10,000 train cancellations between April and July 2016, was a “considerable and complex task” without precedent.

However, he expected the DfT to complete the work by mid-November. He would then write to the committee to inform them of the results.

If GTR is found to be in breach of its benchmarks, it would be left to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, to decide on the next steps.

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