Southeastern’s long-expected franchise extension has been confirmed this morning by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and the Department for Transport.
It became clear months ago that an announcement was very unlikely to meet the revised date of June 2019 – after a succession of prior revisions and delays. I wrote that a delay to 2020 was likely back in January.
The next possible date for commencement is now November 2019 though the option is there for April 2020 – by which time it will be, what, the seventh extension? It’s hard to keep track.
Remember those who said when Grayling blocked TfL he’d want to show the DfT were capable and would go all out on Southeastern? That was amusing.
What this does mean is that any investment is pushed ever further back. All those improvements TfL were pitching if they were to takeover are absent. No all day staffing at stations for safety and gaining fare income. The Abbey Wood effect – whereby counted passengers rapidly increased after TfL took control of the station – will not be seen elsewhere anytime soon.
Other news today is that Stagecoach have been excluded from the process. That leaves just two bidders. One is incumbent GoVia who were also behind the Thameslink timetable shambles. The other is Abellio who won the East Midlands franchise today perhaps making a win for them unlikely. They also have issues at Greater Anglia.
So in the short term the current operator probably has another year, and it’s very possible they’ll win the franchise until 2028. That’s unless Grayling goes and a new Minister changes course – and soon.