HC Deb 08 December 1998 vol 322 cc126-7W
Mr. Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the circumstances under which franchise agreements with train operating companies can be renegotiated; which franchises have been so renegotiated; and if he will make a statement. [62438]

Ms Glenda Jackson

The Deputy Prime Minister has said that the books are open for renegotiating franchises in order to secure improved services for passengers. An announcement about how we will seek additional benefits through renegotiation will be made in due course.

The Franchising Director already has scope to negotiate additional commitments from franchisees. Where contravention of the franchise agreement has a materially adverse effect on passengers, the Franchising Director's Objectives, Instructions and Guidance, given to him in November 1997, require him to seek to secure contractual undertakings from the franchisee which will provide additional benefits as compensation for passengers. Where agreement has been sought to transfer control of a franchise to another party, the Franchising Director can also seek benefits for passengers. Substantial new commitments and changes to franchises negotiated by the Franchising Director since the Minister of Transport gave him new Objectives, Instructions and Guidance in November 1977 are shown in the table.

Franchise Date Circumstances New commitments
Great Western Trains, North Western Trains and Great Eastern Railway 6 March 1998 Franchising Director agreed to buyout of Great Western Holdings Ltd. By FirstGroup plc Great Western: 32 new vehicles by June 2002; one week"s free travel for qualifying season ticket holders; new performance penalty regime; bus/rail integration schemes; new first class lounges; refurbishment of sleeper trains; improvements for cyclists.
North Western: £1.2 million invested in agreement with PTEs and passenger representatives; 70 new vehicles equipped with CCTV security; £100,000 spent on access for disabled people; TOC to take more of the costs of planned vehicle refurbishment over from PTEs; improvements for cyclists.
Great Eastern: replace all slam door trains by end of 2002; bus/rail integration schemes; modern rolling stock for Sudbury branch by October 1998.
Thames Trains 5 June 1998 Franchising Director agreed to buyout of Victory Railway Holdings Ltd. by the Go-Ahead Group plc £500k spent on station improvements;improvements to Passengers' Charter; new through service
Oxford-Didcot-Swindon-Bath-Bristol; bus/rail through ticketing; improvements for cyclists at Oxford; improved access to Heathrow Airport; reinstate London-bound platform at South Greenford.
Chiltern Railway 19 August 1998 Three call-ins for infringements of thresholds for cancellations and part cancellations, deemed a breach of the franchise agreement One week's free travel for qualifying season ticket holders; improved Passenger's Charter compensation provisions; improved security; new public address system and help points; improvements to facilities for disabled people, toilets and passenger shelters.
West Coast Trains; Cross Country Trains; South West Trains 7 October 1998 Franchising Director agreed acquisition of 49 per cent, of shares in Virgin Rail Group (VRG) by Stagecoach plc Bus/rail integration schemes; improved Passenger's Charter compensation terms; 16 new vehicles for VRG or South West Trains; £500k spent on improvements at stations served, but not operated, by VRG; passenger fora hosted by senior directors of all three TOCs.
North Western Trains 29 October 1998 Concentration of cancellations on Oldham Loop, deemed a breach of the franchise agreement Two weeks' free travel for season ticket holders; to be extended to other ticket holders bynegotiation with Greater Manchester PTE.
LTS Rail 11 November 1998 Review of rolling stock availability relating to Class 317s scheduled for release from WAGN Railway Relieved LTS Rail of incentive payments due if Class 317s not taken over from WAGN. Commitment to replace all slam door stock by March 2002; 12 additional vehicles; improved Passenger's Charter; more exacting performance thresholds; £2 million spend on passenger information systems, increased staffing and other facilities; additional spend each year on staffing; improved facilities for disabled people and passenger security; bus/rail integration schemes; improved access to Lakeside shopping centre; improvements for cyclists; additional reduced rate early morning season tickets.