Franchise folly adds £40 million to fares

03 October 2012

The government today casually added £40 million to the cost of UK rail. Why? According to ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan because it is ‘too pig-headed to recognise that rail franchising is unwieldy, expensive, bureaucratic, wasteful, imprecise, unscientific and ultimately indefensible’.

The Department for Transport has cancelled the award of the West Coast main line franchise to First Group after Virgin, who bid unsuccessfully, threatened it with legal action. Instead it has said it will have a re-run of the process. ‘The companies have said that to make a bid costs £15 million each. So the four bidders last time have spent at least £40 million. Add to that the legal cost of the Virgin challenge, and the costs of the re-run and we could be talking about double the £40 million figure.

‘And who is going to pay these bills in these ‘austere’ days? The public, either as tax payers or train users.

‘It is time to accept that franchising has failed, and to begin a serious study of alternative rail financing involving the workforce, companies, users, politicians, rail experts and any other stakeholders. Franchising has failed us all. It would be wrong to simply look at what went wrong this time. It is the whole process that is flawed, not this particular bid.’

The union says the decision announced at midnight last night throws every franchise in the country into doubt. ‘It is presumably the green light for every failed bidder since privatisation to cry ‘Foul’,’ Mick says.

ASLEF members face constant uncertainty and turmoil with every franchising fiasco. The public faces large and unnecessary bills. Passengers endure unwarranted fare rises.

‘It is time to end this expensive stupidity,’ Mick Whelan says. ‘Franchising is not just going through a bad patch. It is a flawed system that needs to be replaced.’

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