Greater Western Franchise

Publisher:Department for Transport
Publication type:Invitation to tender
Published date: 2 February 2006
Mode/topic:Rail, Rail passenger franchises

On 1st June 2005 the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) issued the Invitation To Tender to the three pre-qualified bidders for the Greater Western franchise. At the same time a consultation was launched on the proposals for the new franchise. This consultation closed on 2nd August 2005.

The franchise specification and procurement function of the SRA transferred to Department for Transport (DfT) Rail Group during the summer.

Tenders for the Greater Western franchise were submitted to DfT on 26th September 2005 and a period of rigorous bid evaluation commenced.

On 13th December 2005 DfT Rail Group confirmed that the Greater Western franchise has been awarded to First Group.

The franchise, commencing on 1st April 2006, pays over £1 billion premia over the next 10 years, delivers a significant increase in capacity into London in the peak hours and measured performance improvements through infrastructure and fleet investment. Together with Network Rail’s planned investments, PPM performance of the franchise should reach 90% by 2011/12.

First Group will deliver in excess of £200 million investment over the first three years of the franchise including

  • complete re-design of the HST fleet to include new interiors and increased capacity;
  • installation of on-board CCTV throughout the franchise’s local and regional Diesel Multiple Unit rolling stock fleet;
  • an additional 1700 car parking spaces across the franchise with upgraded facilities, additional CCTV, information points and security with a commitment to improve Park Mark Safer Parking accreditation;
  • introduction of new ticket vending technology including 124 new ticket vending machines;
  • investment to raise the maximum speed on almost all sections of the ‘slow’ lines between Paddington and Reading up to 90 mph (there are currently sections where 90 mph is not achievable);
  • extension of the Maidenhead station down ‘fast’ line platform to accommodate longer vehicles improving performance viability during periods of disruption;
  • a range of security and revenue protection measures including automatic ticket gates at key stations, additional gateline staff and more community support officers;
  • major investment to create integrated passenger facilities and improve the station environment and security at Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, Burnham, Cheltenham Spa, Chippenham, Didcot Parkway, Ealing Broadway, Exeter Central, Exeter St Davids, Gloucester, Hayes & Harlington, Hungerford, Maidenhead, Newbury, North Camp, Oxford, Plymouth, Reading, Slough, Southall, Swindon, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Trowbridge, Truro, Twyford, Weston-super-Mare and Westbury;
  • establishment of a Diesel Multiple Unit maintenance and servicing facility at St Philips Marsh depot and investment at Exeter and Old Oak Common depots;
  • fitment of air conditioning in the driver cabs of all the Turbo (Class 16x) fleet;
  • establish a Customer Information Centre to provide retailing and information provision with regard to timetable information, ticketing options, special offers and pricing options;
  • a committed annual budget for Community Rail and agreeement to liaise and co-operate with Community Rail partners to develop and promote partnerships;
  • Delivery of better interchange facilities, better access for the mobility impaired and improved cycle storage facilities at stations

First Group has projected growth higher than that used by SRA/DfT in its consultation documents, better reflecting the views of regional stakeholders. Furthermore, the large level of investment by First Group in areas such as rolling stock refurbishment and marketing over the early years of the franchise will generate additional passengers and revenue. The SRA forecasts did not take these issues into account.

The franchise has been awarded on the basis of the specification of the original ITT, consulted upon by SRA/DfT Rail Group this summer, which included the following service improvements:

  • additional peak stopping trains between Paddington and Slough running every 30 minutes;
  • additional morning and evening peak services at Twyford, Maidenhead and Slough;
  • a regular hourly service between Westbury and London Paddington;
  • Reading – Gatwick Airport off-peak services doubled from hourly to half hourly;
  • New cross-Bristol, with through trains between Worcester and Taunton, Cardiff to Westbury/Southampton/Weymouth and Weston-super-Mare to Filton.

In addition, the following changes to the original specification have been agreed with the Franchisee;

  • The London-Cardiff (and vv) off-peak half-hourly service is retained;
  • A London-Penzance overnight service is retained and simplified with the separate Plymouth portion removed ( the service will continue to call at Plymouth in both directions but will not have a dedicated sleeping coach);
  • the current level of off-peak mainline stops at Slough will be retained. Slough branch line stops will be retimed to co-incide with mainline stops to/from London, thereby improving connectivity. The performance risks of stopping on the main line at Slough will be mitigated through robust timetabling and this approach has been agreed with Network Rail;
  • in order to maintain London connections with off-peak stops at Slough (above), the Windsor – Slough services will remain a half-hourly service as now (20 minutes in the peak hours);
  • 6 trains per weekday on the Oxford-Bicester line, with realistically timed peak hour services;
  • faster journey times between London and Cheltenham;
  • The quantum of off-peak Didcot calls will remain as current;
  • A daily direct Frome-London return service is introduced;
  • Better connections with mainline services from the branch lines in Devon and Cornwall;
  • A direct 1 train per day London-Newquay service will only operate in the high peak of summer (July/August). Due to current track quality it is not possible to introduce a year-round service initially, however DfT, First Group and Network Rail will work together to deliver a year-round service in the future if possible.

In many cases these changes address specific issues raised by stakeholders during the consultation which took place this summer.

DfT has secured a commitment from the successful bidder to work towards the development of the Crossrail scheme, when funding is secured, and HST2.

First Group are also committed to working with stakeholders to develop plans for the modernisation of Reading and Bristol Temple Meads stations, subject to funding availability, establish Area Integration Partnerships with Local Authorities and transport operators and, subject to necessary consents, introduce a Penalty Fares Scheme on the Bristol, Plymouth and Exeter commuter routes.