DISCUSSIONS ARE underway regarding a further direct award contract for the South Eastern franchise, according to Govia’s majority partner Go-Ahead Group.

The current deal expires at the end of March 2020. The Department for Transport cancelled the competition for a new franchise in August, with Govia competing alongside a consortium of Abellio, JR East and Mitsui for a new deal. A partnership between Stagecoach and Alstom had earlier been disqualified from bidding due to non-compliance concerning pensions.

The South Eastern franchise has had a series of short extensions, with the new franchise having originally been planned to start in December 2018. Govia has operated the South Eastern franchise since 2006.

In a trading update for the period from 30 June to 27 November, Go-Ahead reported expectations for its rail division remained unchanged, with good performance in the UK offsetting ‘a challenging operational start’ to its new German rail contracts. The company said Southeastern continues to perform well both operational and financially while operational performance at Govia Thameslink Railway continues to improve. Both are operated by Govia, a 65:35 joint venture with Keolis. The international contracts are solely operated by Go-Ahead, with a third German contract and contracts in Norway beginning in December.