The UK’s government infrastructure spending watchdog has just concluded that the private rail franchise operators, Virgin and Thameslink, are providing a terrible service and that the pool of potential bidders is too small. This was reported in the FT 27.4.2018.
The Transport Minister, Ms. Berner, is delusional if she thinks that the Finnish government can get a better deal with lower ticket prices than VR’s excellent service for the only profitable line between Helsinki and Tampere.
Here is a summary of the report, which can be found here:
“We are deeply concerned that the Department for Transport’s (DfT) management of two of its most important franchises has been completely inadequate and could be indicative of wider weaknesses in its contract management capability. Passengers on the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise have suffered an appalling level of delays and cancellations since the franchise started in 2014.
At one point, less than two thirds of trains arrived on time. This totally unacceptable state of affairs which caused misery for passengers was due to a catalogue of failures by the DfT, Network Rail and the operator, Thameslink.
DfT was too ambitious about what could be achieved, and it overlooked the poor condition of the infrastructure of the rail network. DfT was also ambivalent about the risk of industrial action and neglected to engage constructively with rail unions.
DfT failed to see, or chose not to see, the perfect storm of an ambitious upgrade programme coupled with plans to increase driver controlled operation of trains. While there has been some improvement recently and there are signs that Network Rail and Thameslink are now working together more effectively, we remain sceptical that this will address the serious and deep-rooted problems we have identified.
On the East Coast franchise, DfT has failed to learn the lessons from previous failures of the franchise, and has again allowed the operator to promise more than it could deliver. DfT will have to put in place new arrangements for running train services. We are concerned that the Department could terminate its contract with Virgin yet still give the operator the opportunity to run the franchise again in the future. The issues we have found with the East Coast and TSGN, and the small pool of potential bidders in the market, highlight the broken model of franchising.”
FinnishNews has already reported in August 2017 that her plans and visions are based on political ideals and not on hard facts or actual experience:
- There is only one line that will be interesting for bidders and that line is rather short and passenger numbers are not that large. There are no other lines that would attract more interest so running costs will be higher relative to the bigger countries.
- Comparing Finland to Germany, France, UK, Spain and Italy is open to dispute. These countries have a need to connect huge cities with many millions of residents, over long distances. Furthermore, in all of these countries the main national railway operators are owned by the State.
- The Swedes have only one important long-distance line that has been opened to competition between Stockholm and Gothenburg, with huge populations and strong passenger demand. This line also connects to Malmö and Copenhagen. This single private operator there is owned by the Chinese government and the operating concession contract in Sweden bears no relationship to the Finnish proposal. Furthermore, Finland does not have any such line, so any comparison is invalid.
- Finally, the UK report points out that most of the companies bidding for the franchises are too few and government owned or really close to their respective governments – for example Germany, France and China…
See other reports on same subject in FinnishNews: