Eurostar chairman Richard Brown’s review of rail franchising has called for government to strengthen the Department for Transport’s bid review capability.
Brown backs the overall policy, stating that the programme halted in October should be restarted as soon as possible. By February, Government should publish its plans for the Essex Thameside, Great Western and the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise competitions, the report says.
Brown’s report was commissioned to examine the overall rail franchise programme before publication of Sam Laidlaw’s review of what went wrong with the InterCity West Coast competition specifically. Like Laidlaw, Brown sets out reinforcement of DfT’s capability as a top priority.
Changes are needed, however. The bidding and evaluation process for each franchise should be strengthened and simplified, Government should make clearer what it is seeking to buy and state its objectives for each franchise, according to Brown’s recommendations. He also calls for more robust evaluation of the deliverability of bids and for DfT to describe its assessment criteria. Brown also recommends that some smaller franchises are devolved to local authorities such as Passenger Transport Executives or Integrated Transport Authorities
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has responded, saying he will consider Brown’s recommendations before publishing a statement on Government’s franchising policy in the spring.