City Region transport bosses respond to MPs' Intercity East Coast Franchise report
12 September 2018
Responding to the Transport Select Committee's report Intercity East Coast Franchise, published on Tuesday 11 September, Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and member of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: "The franchise system has failed East Coast Main Line passengers three times in the last 12 years and this report is just the latest piece of evidence that it is hopelessly flawed. As passengers across the North of England have experienced this summer, too often there is a chasm between what is promised and the reality of what is delivered."
The report was prompted when, in June, Virgin Trains East Coast (Vtec) became the third company in just over 10 years to have its contract to run East Coast Mainline services terminated prematurely after forecast revenue and growth in passenger numbers failed to materialise.
MPs found that in letting the franchise, which includes trains between the Leeds City Region and London Kings Cross, the Department for Transport failed to conduct appropriate due diligence on Vtec's bid. They said the government has encouraging overbidding for the contract.
Cllr Blake, who is leading a review into the rail disruption following the May timetable change with Rail Minister Jo Johnson, added: "We await the details of the Prime Minister's reported review of rail franchising but it is increasingly clear that nothing short of a fundamental overhaul of the way rail services are commissioned and delivered to the public, devolving power to those who understand the needs of their communities, is required to create an accountable system that puts the interests of passengers first."
Highlands to Hertfordshire
Cllr Ian Gillies, Chair of the Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities and Leader of City of York Council, said: "The proper management of this vital artery for business and leisure travel is critical not only for the communities from the Highlands to Hertfordshire it serves but also in terms of the role it plays in the economic prosperity of the UK as a whole.
"The repeated failures of the franchise on this line have been a great source of uncertainty for passengers and business and it is critical that the East Coast Partnership delivers stability and confidence over the long term.
"Addressing the shortcomings of the franchise must be accompanied by a comprehensive plan to maintain and renew the infrastructure on this line if we are to achieve the modern, reliable service needed in the years to come."