Franchising in Wonderland

30 October 2012

Recent questions in Parliament have made the franchising process seem curiouser and curiouser.

One the one hand, when Kelvin Hopkins MP asked the Secretary of State for Transport how many staff have been employed each year by Directly Operated Railways, who run the currently nationalised East Coast Main Line, he was told the numbers were five in 2010, four in 2011 and three in 2012.

This seems very reasonable. Nationalisation, it seems, is an efficient option.

It contrasts starkly with the answer given to Katy Clark when she asked about the cost of consultant to advise of various franchises. She was told that up to 23 October

  • The West Coast franchise (which has got precisely nowhere) had paid consultants £490,810 for technical advice and £439,000 for legal advice.
  • The Great Western franchise had paid consultants £432,627 for technical advice and £241,398 for legal advice.
  • The Essex Thameside franchise had paid consultants £189,180 for technical advice and £98,740 for legal advice.
  • The Thameslink franchise had paid consultants £462,418 for technical advice and £136,080 for legal advice.

‘Every time I think I’ve got a grip on the absurdities of franchising, more appear,’ says ASLEF’s general secretary Mick Whelan. ‘No wonder rail speculators have the look of Cheshire cats.’

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