01 February 2013



The competition to decide who will run the Great Western train franchise has today been scrapped - and First will get an extension on their current deal. The current franchise will now run until October after the Department of Transport exercised its contractual right to extend the current contract with First Great Western by 28 weeks. Negotiations for an additional two-year contract will commence with the operator, while longer-term proposals will be set out in the spring.

This is Plymouth

An operating extension on the Great Western line would be a significant boost to FirstGroup after it was named as the winner of the West Coast competition in August - only to be denied the franchise two months later when the Government aborted the process, following the discovery of “significant technical flaws” in the way the process was handled.

The Government announced last March that, alongside FirstGroup, National Express, Stagecoach, and Arriva, a division of Deutsche Bahn, had been short-listed for the Great Western franchise.

The Telegraph

It is clear that the whole system of rail franchising has broken down completely  The Great Western franchise is going to be extremely complex due to the major plans for electrification on at least parts of the main line. It seems that First Group will still be running GW for a few years yet. It is also clear that this whole thing is going to be extremely expensive for taxpayers and extremely frustrating for rail travellers waiting for long promised improvements to the main line from the Westcountry, even though very few improvements will happen this side of Bristol anyway.

It really does seem that the politicians on all sides of the spectrum do not have a clue what to do with rail. For too long Transport has been seen as a temporary job for any government minister. Transport planning is a major long term project which the current political system in this country does not allow to happen. This is not a dig at the current Conservative Coalition as the last Labour lot were no better. It was not that long ago that Labour were complaining that the Dept of Transport has had too many bosses under the Conservatives completely ignoring their own woeful record in this respect.

There is a lot of money being invested in rail travel at the moment, or at least lots has been promised, but it remains to be seen how much we actually get for the money. The new much hyped HS2 could be a good thing, but will clearly be messed about so much by the politics  behind it that we will end up with something that is extremely expensive and nothing like as useful as it could be. It will also take so long to happen that the politicians making the decisions now will be long gone by the time any of it comes to fruition. No one will be held to account for any of this.

There is a nice little essay on the BBC as to why it takes twenty years to build a railway in this country HERE which is well worth a read.

It wasnt always like this. If you fancy a look back at the Plymouth Railway scene of yesteryear then there is a meeting organised by the old Plymouth Society that might be of interest:

Friday 17 May
Bernard Mills (Ex-Railwayman): Railways of Plymouth – Then & Now

Lectures held in Spurgeon Hall, Mutley Baptist Church, Plymouth 7pm for 7:30pm start. £2 non members.

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