Why ASLEF is bidding for a rail franchise

06 May 2010

ASLEF would like to see full re-nationalisation of rail – but we recognise that right now it’s unachievable. That is why the Executive Committee has launched an employee-led co-operative bid for the East Coast Mainline (ECML) franchise.

If we believe the politicians we should be in with a good chance. After all, the Tory manifesto said they want ‘workers to gain ownership of the services they deliver through co-operative models’. Labour’s manifesto said it would ‘welcome rail franchise bids from not-for-profit, mutual or cooperative enterprises’.

Nice words. But in practice the current franchising system presents near insurmountable hurdles to an employee-backed bid …



· need to prove they have ‘substantial experience of running passenger transport operations’ - but haven’t ECML staff got a lot more ‘passenger transport experience’ than a multinational accountant?

· are required to have ‘health and safety standing’ – and in their terms, we don’t (even though ASLEF has led the development of rail health and safety policy).

· need to provide detailed information of their balance sheets - in which case, how come in the last three years both GNER and National Express have both defaulted on their franchise obligations?

· have to show ‘a proven track record of service delivery and financial management’ which amounts to between 70%-80% of the bidding score – so new bidders are hugely handicapped.

· face assessment scores which are only 20%-30% concerned with passengers and other stakeholders – surely these are wrong priorities?

· need to show three years results of ‘targets, trends, comparators and causes with sufficient scope to demonstrate capabilities’. So new companies (or ideas) need not apply.

· have to put up some £18 million for a performance bond facility and a season ticket bond. It hardly encourages cooperatives, does it?


Yet franchise winners don’t have to

· ensure good industrial relations – because they can claim any revenue lost because of a strike back from the taxpayer.

· offer staff travel facilities in cooperation with other companies

· adhere to standards for important issues such as cab conditions

· have any contact with or loyalty to the rail freight industry


‘These are some of the follies of franchising - and a handful of the hurdles a cooperative faces when it applies to run a franchise,’ says union general secretary Keith Norman.

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