Southeastern franchise delayed into 2020?

Now I could just cut and paste this story given it follows what has happened many times already but could the next Southeastern franchise now slip yet again – and begin running in 2020?

I was sent an email this morning from a reader regarding an answer to a Parliamentary question yesterday on when the next franchise would be awarded.

Now that should be an easy one to answer as yet another extension was announced in December for 12 weeks and the DfT should have a very good idea when the final franchise would be revealed. But the reply doesn’t give a date, month or even season but simply says “we expect to award the franchise this year”. Why so vague? Have more problems arisen?

Now it could be no change at all and the DfT don’t want to pin themselves down. I could be making a mountain out of a molehill but this is the Department for Transport under Chris Grayling.

At this stage they really should be close to having a definitive date for announcing the award given the start date was announced as 22nd June 2019 and any new operator needs time to prepare.

The current economic uncertainly and economy slowing almost to stagnation will also be leading to discussions on expected income, work patterns and passenger numbers.

Of the four original bidders one pulled out (Trenitalia) and the remaining three all have recent histories which make an award liable for criticism. GoVia have run Southeastern since 2006 and were behind the Thameslink timetable fiasco, Stagecoach handed back East Coast services and Abellio are reported to have been overly optimistic with Greater Anglia leading to financial issues.



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J Smith

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.

    7 thoughts on “Southeastern franchise delayed into 2020?

    • The DfT could halve the problem straightaway simply by awarding the Southeastern Metro franchise to TfL. It was all agreed several years ago, but thanks to Chris Grayling it’s still the missing part of the jigsaw.

      Better still, given Southeastern’s disastrous passenger satisfaction ratings and the immense difficulty of attracting any compliant private sector bids, the DfT should also award the Mainline franchise to TfL. Welcome to the London – Doverground !

      • How would TFL sort the problems out? Fundamentally it’s the sheer volume of trains and the lack of infrastructure investment that are the root cause, SE see around 71% of their delays caused by network rail so that’s not something TFL could overcome

        • TfL were planning to improve operations through pressure on NR for automatic train operations around London terminals to increase capacity. Not cheap and at the mercy of NR who have their own problems. Aside from that TfL would have been likely to focus far more on safety and staffing which is lacking in the Metro area. But again TfLs problems would make it hard now. If more autonomy was given to GLA or TfL it could work but not when constrained. One example is a GLA tourist tax to be spent on transport as happens in many cities in developed nations but central government do not permit this.

        • TfL have an excellent record, e.g. they improved the old Silverlink line beyond recognition, as evidenced by much higher ridership and passenger satisfaction scores. In contrast, Southeastern and its sister companies consistently languish at the bottom of the tables, and it can’t even rescue passengers from stranded trains in a timely manner just yards from a station. None of this is down to ‘sheer volume of trains and the lack of infrastructure investment’.

          As well as staffed stations, TfL would introduce Oyster and contactless travel. Southeastern’s so-called smartcard ‘The Key’ can’t even be used to buy day tickets online, there’s still no PAYG travel or contactless, nor is is their Key compatible with Southern’s or Thameslink’s Key – despite all these TOCs having common ownership. Even the fragments are fragmented !

          Southeastern users still are getting an inferior service at inflated prices because of Chris Grayling’s infamous party political decision to prevent the Metro service ‘falling into the clutches of a future Labour mayor. The latest franchising delay represents a golden opportunity to put things right by devolving the Southeastern Metro to TfL w.e.f. June 2019.

          • TFL have had significant investment to achieve those goals, SE has been past the franchise end date for so long that the lack of investment and a clear vision is showing.
            Your point about conservative govt vs labour mayor is a factor in this but investment is key
            Also the sheer volume of trains is an issue that TFL would struggle with as well with 3 TOC’s and freight all using the same geography
            TFL also had a stranded train recently and it also took a considerable amount of time to resolve so that issue is not SE specific
            My point is that Just giving it to TFL is not the answer, investment is key and a joined up railway is key to allow the oyster/contactless benefits you list, this restriction is not just limited to SE
            TFL is solely interested in London travel and we need to have a connected seamless transition for those outside the capital, hopefully the rail review will look at this

    • I think the Central Government should allow money from the GLA or TFL to use the GLA Tourist Tax to improve transport in Greater London. A good public transport infrastructure is needed for the success of any City. I agree TFL would staff Metro Stations and could introduce oyster and contactless payments to these services.

      However a lot of delays on South Eastern trains are caused by Network Rail with over running works and faults on the network. So TFL would have to work with Network Rail to overcome these problems.

      I am all for anything that will improve public transport in London.

    • Apparently crossrail fares have started on SE lines, meaning oyster PAYG customers could save some money. Here’s a new YouTube video from Geoff Marshall


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