THE DEPARTMENT for Transport has ruled out transferring routes out of the Great Western franchise.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had already confirmed DfT would not split the franchise in two (p13, last month). In a stakeholder briefing document outlining responses to the consultation on the future of the franchise, DfT has also ruled out transferring Greenford branch services to the Chiltern franchise and GWR’s Brighton to Southampton workings to Govia Thameslink Railway’s successor. While 70% of consultation respondents agreed with the Greenford transfer, DfT says further examination has shown that providing rolling stock from Chiltern’s Wembley depot is ‘unlikely to be operationally any easier than from GWR’s Reading depot’, negating some of the intended benefits.
In respect of Brighton services, DfT notes opposition about the proposed loss of direct services between Brighton and points north and west of Southampton. In the document DfT says it is to work with GWR owner FirstGroup to develop terms for a directly-awarded franchise to run from April 2020 for between two and four years. DfT originally planned to issue formal specifications in June this year, but says this has been delayed to allow GWR to concentrate on managing the effect of delayed infrastructure upgrades, introducing new fleets of trains and preparing for the introduction of new timetables. DfT says it will work with FirstGroup ‘over the coming months’ to develop a Request for Proposal, comprising the formal specification for the franchise, after which First will develop a costed proposal and detailed terms for an agreement will be negotiated.