Southeastern rail franchise extended AGAIN

It’s beyond a farce now.

Today the Department for Transport and Chirs Grayling have yet again extended GoVia’s operation of Southeastern trains until June 22nd 2019.

Nothing like sneaking it out just before the Christmas break.

This is the latest in a string of short term extensions dating all the way back to 2012. Each extension means little investment in the service. The clapped out Networker trains are nearing 30 years old without ever seeing a comprehensive refurb as is the norm across the rest of the country. They almost certainly would have or been replaced if the 2012 bid process had occurred.

Seven years on and the most bare-bones alterations on some stock has occurred due to an impending legal deadline for disabled access – yet a large number of trains will still fail to be disability-compliant when the deadline hits at the end of 2019. This will very likely mean short-formed trains in 2020.

DfT woes

The Department’s handling of franchises has been shambolic for years. After losing a court case in 2012 regarding the West Coast franchise they were put on hold. Southeastern has been floundering since in limbo.

Reviews come and go and the system hits problem after problem. Despite all this Grayling blocked transfer power over the lines to TfL and kept an iron grip of DfT power.

Earlier this year this site covered problems with all bids. Only three companies remain and all have issues. One had to hand in a franchise earlier this year back to a state operator (Stagecoach and East Coast), one is believed to be in trouble a little over a year after taking over (Abellio with Greater Anglia) and the other is GoVia who have run the service since 2006 and made such a mess of Thameslink earlier this year.

It doesn’t bode well.

The whole franchise process costs millions with both the DfT paying many millions to analyse bids and bidders stumping up further millions. All that is money not going on new carriages or staff.

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I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

12 thoughts on “Southeastern rail franchise extended AGAIN

  • Give sodding southeastern services to TfL!

    • Yes tfl really should take over southeastern train in the london metropolitan area.

  • Agree with TFL running South Eastern Rail Services but not with the current Mayor in charge.

  • As much as i want a new provider, handing services over to tfl would mean my monthly travelcard would increase by over £50… and would overstretch an already tight budget.

    • When they took over Greater Anglia routes in 2015 point to point season tickets were retained

  • Sorry Murky but none of this qualifies for the description ‘informed commentary’ or ‘insightful analysis’ – if either is an aspiration. The 12-weeks extension is allowed for in the current Direct Award and was foreshadowed in a DfT Policy paper release on 12 December. The previous expectation of a contract award announcement in November was obviously thrown by the resignation of the then Rail Minister, with his replacement appointed on 12 November. I hope no-one is seriously suggesting that he should then have signed-off such an important decision within days, without allowing himself time to become fully briefed and familiarised? As it was he announced the deferral in a Westminster Hall debate on 27 November.
    As the franchising system is in your view so rotten I trust that you’ll be sharing with us your informed and insightful contribution to the Rail Review to either improve or replace it.

    • Blimey Rog, who pissed on your parade? That’s an astonishingly hostile response.

      Informative, yes, and the detail you add is welcome. But you’re still snide and passive-aggressive in your phrasing and it detracts from the points you make.

      • John, criticism acknowledged. Regret it’s come across that way. Our public discourse can and should be robust but without the negative features you identify.

        • I think it’s probably important to recognise that (to me at any rate) this is a blog with a specialism towards planning and urbanism issues, and a more generalist take on local transport issues.

          A report that allows me to roll my eyes, sigh about yet another franchising cockup, and think snide thoughts about Failing Grayling is the level I’m looking for, and probably right for a generalist audience: I’m happy to leave some of the finer detail to the more esoteric transport sites where gricers are welcomed rather than merely tolerated …

          (But then I take the slightly simplistic view that in the absence of a properly vertically integrated rail network, the next best thing for south east London would be to hand commuter rail over to TfL, and that it’s scandalous that Grayling refuses to do so for purely political ends.)

          • And now having read the Westminster Hall debate you referred to, there are some interesting points made about service improvements that are supposed to form part of the new franchise, but set against trenchant criticism of the existing service from several local MPs and, by proxy, their constituents.

            But it’s a pretty low-key way to announce that the franchise award is going to be delayed until the new year, and it doesn’t look to me as though the DfT has made any sort of announcement or press release about the delay, at any rate not one that was evident after a cursory search.

  • Who would you like to run the franchise then? GoViz have done what we asked of them in the franchise. If you read the invitation to tender document, you’ll notice that it mentions new trains. The reason for the delay in issuing the franchise is that none of the bidders could agree to procuring new trains. Stagecoach had their own issues with the east coast franchise and abellio is too heavily committed with the greater Anglia franchise.

    • Overground 100%. In the end, TfL will own/and run the entire inner M25 railway network. If not given now, it will be next time. But there are many ways they can put sanctions on and why the another delay in my honest opinion.


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