Great Western direct award to first group outrageous

23 March 2015

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has condemned the direct award of the Great Western franchise by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to First Group from September 2015 to March 2019 which has been announced today.

Mick said: ‘This three and a half year direct award by the Department for Transport to First Group is absolutely outrageous. It guarantees the company an income with virtually no risk and no incentive to improve performance. I support many of the objectives of the DfT in terms of infrastructure and investment in the Great Western region but I find it hard to see how creating yet another short-term direct award will deliver these important and much needed upgrades, including electrification and the IEP rolling stock roll out.’

 

‘First Group opted out of a franchise extension in 2011 to avoid more than £800 million in premium payments to the Treasury but the collapse of the West Coast franchise in 2012 led to a number of direct awards and franchise extensions across the rail network – and means that First Group has now got the contract by default.’

Mick added: ‘I find it incredible that the Secretary of State for Transport can say this represents good value for money for passengers and taxpayers. First Group had his department over a barrel on this – and named its price. He should have given the Great Western franchise to Directly Operated Railways. Then we might have seen some returns to the taxpayer rather than to First Group’s shareholders.’

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