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‘No credible case’ for major franchising reform – Brown review

The publication of the Brown review yesterday has been met with disappointment in some quarters, with any prospect of radical overhauls to the franchising system quashed. The headline from the report is that the franchising system is “not broken”, but it does need simplifying.

The review was launched in October, following the cancellation of the West Coast Main Line award to FirstGroup after serious errors emerged.

Richard Brown (pictured) recommends that the DfT must strengthen its capacity to manage future franchising programmes by simplifying the bidding and evaluation process for each franchise, and proposes plans for more English franchises to be devolved down from the DfT to relevant PTEs and local authorities.  

The Government should also publish plans for the franchises which were put on hold last year: Essex Thameside, Great Western, Thameslink, Southern and Greater Northern, by February. Additionally, the DfT should bring in senior commercially experienced people to manage the franchising process and ensure the programme is restarted at a “sustainable pace”, the report states.

But he said there was “no credible case” for major structural change, something criticised by campaign group Railfuture and the TUC.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “The review has confirmed that Government’s approach to rail franchising system is still the best way to secure the rail services for taxpayers and farepayers alike.”

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport welcomed the report and said: “In particular, the Institute is pleased to see that the report has taken an holistic view of franchising, including an appreciation of the relationship between the rail industry and its supply chain, which has suffered from the uncertainty following the collapse of the West Coast refranchising process.

“The Institute recognises the value of the recommendation that bids should be scored on their proposals for improving the quality of the service passengers receive, including investment in staff training and workforce development.

“It is reassuring that the report gives a vote of confidence to the fundamentals of the franchising regime and points mainly to better management as the way to secure the necessary improvements in programme delivery. The report's recommendations on franchise structure, risk allocation, incentive arrangements and change mechanisms should produce more robust and sustainable franchises that sit better within the overall rail industry business structure.”

Geoff Inskip, chair of pteg, particularly welcomed the support for devolution in the document, saying: “Wherever local rail responsibilities have been devolved we have seen a better service for passengers and greater levels of investment. By being closer to passengers and services, PTEs give local rail services the attention and funding priority that they need, driving up investment and passenger satisfaction. This is clear to see after powers were devolved on London Overground, Merseyrail Electrics and Scotrail.”

Stephen Locke, chair of London TravelWatch, added: “If the Government does choose to devolve further rail franchises, the success of Transport for London’s London Overground concession has shown the benefit of using a more comprehensive set of measures of service quality to ensure passengers get the service which best fits their needs. We are looking forward to seeing further details about how the recommendations contained in the report would work in practice when franchises are awarded.”

More RTM coverage of the WCML debacle and franchising reviews:

Brown calls for franchising programme to be restarted

‘Underwhelming’ recommendations from Brown review

Ministers ‘not to blame’ for West Coast errors – Laidlaw

‘Uncomfortable reading’ as Laidlaw report published

McLoughlin sets out terms of franchising reviews

23-month extension for Virgin on West Coast

‘We were right’, says Branson as McLoughlin apologises

Claims of anti-Virgin bias denied

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


John   11/01/2013 at 13:20

What?? Brown has to be Joking!! Everybody knows that the whole process is deeply flawed and unless it is thouroughly investigated, root, branch and top canopy, it will not get fixed as the vested interests and egos will just batten down and ride out the storm of protest. Result? I don't think so!!

Richard Beeching   11/01/2013 at 13:24

Sad! Sad! Sad! Lost opportunity to actually get a grip on a flawed and expensive process. What most people expected though from a passive participant. If the process is so good how come no other Country in the world has adopted it? So do we continue with a bunch of Venture Capitalists, sorry Train Companies, fudging along at taxpayers cost in a contractual nightmare with low value returns? Of course we do...easiest option and protects bottom lines!

Tommy   11/01/2013 at 14:10

DfT has got what it wanted

Frederick   11/01/2013 at 16:42

If there was nothing significantly wrong with the process, not broken and not needing reform !!! does this mean that West Coast will be immediately taken off Virgin and given the First Group. That would be fair given the damage the the First Share price.

Jak Jaye   11/01/2013 at 16:49

Why am i not surprised!?

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