Wednesday, 4 January 2012

First group should promote benefits of a new franchise

The news that First Great Western are applying for a new franchise to run rail services between Cornwall and London is not really a surprise. But the question for the company is what they can offer local passengers in terms of service improvements or price reductions so that we should support their bid.

First Great Western pulled out of their current 10 year contract three years early in order to avoid paying the final tranche of money to the government and in order to seek a longer - 15 year - contract. Why the previous government allowed such a break clause and why they loaded the bulk of the payments from FGW into the last three years of the old contract (so they could be avoided) has never been explained. But it has meant that we enter this period of uncertainty much sooner than expected.

The contract specification is now out for public consultation. FGW could sit back and play no part in this discussion but I think it would be helpful for passengers if they explained what they think they can do to improve the service and how they see costs changing over the life of the new franchise.

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