The Department for Transport has today announced its new strategic vision for the railways, which sets out a number of proposals to increase capacity and improve services for customers across the UK network.
At the same time, the DfT has announced it will exercise its option to extend the current Great Western Franchise for a year to April 2020, and that it intends to negotiate a further direct award for the GWR franchise for a duration of two years to April 2022, with an option to extend this for up to a further two years at the DfT’s discretion.
This is when it expects the completion of the lion’s share of planned improvements across the network to offer a more commercially viable option for potential franchise bidders.
GWR’s experience of managing the route in partnership with Network Rail over many years will be critical to ensuring the success of the £7.5bn Great Western Mainline modernisation programme and the continued delivery of improvements for passengers.
Commenting on the consultation to extend GWRs operation of the Great Western beyond April 2020 a GWR spokesperson said:
“We have built a strong reputation at GWR for working closely with our rail industry partners to deliver for our customers and the taxpayer, and the DfT’s confirmation today that it intends to extend the franchise and negotiate a further direct award lasting at least two years is a further vote of confidence.
“A period of detailed negotiation will now follow, but this opportunity will create further stability on the Great Western route as our experienced team continue their work with our partners to transform a key part of the country’s transport infrastructure.
“GWR passengers are already seeing new suburban and long distance trains which are delivering more seats, and going forward the upgrade work allows us to change the timetable and introduce more frequent and faster services. These will keep people moving and communities prospering across the network for generations to come.”
Commenting on the DfT’s consultation on the future shape of the Great Western franchise, a GWR spokesperson said:
"With significant potential growth anticipated on the future and, with further potential new services proposed to grow the business further, it is likely GWR would become the biggest rail franchise in the UK. In this context, we understand the DfT’s desire to explore changes to the shape of the franchise.
“At this stage, this is simply an option the DfT is exploring with stakeholders and no decisions have been taken, and even if a decision is taken to take the proposals forward, it would not actually take place until 2022 at the earliest.”