Public Accounts Committee

Rail Franchising in the UK inquiry

Inquiry status: Concluded

Report published 27 April 2018. Government response published 28 June 2018.

Report and response published

Scope of the inquiry

Rail Franchising in the UK

The Public Accounts Committee will hold an evidence session looking at two of the UK’s 15 rail franchises.

East Coast

In November 2014, the East Coast railway franchise running from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh was awarded to Virgin Trains East Coast, a joint venture between Stagecoach (90%) and Virgin (10%).
In June 2017 Stagecoach reported losses on the line, and entered talks with the Department of Transport. In November 2017, the Transport Secretary announced that the franchise would become a public-private railway and that the franchise would terminate in 2020 to enable this change. However, by February 2018 the end of the franchise had been brought forward to sometime within the year

The Committee will ask witnesses from Virgin and Stagecoach whether the original bidding process was appropriately managed, whether there are particular problems with the East Coast franchise, and about the future of the line.

Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern

The largest of the Department for Transport’s 15 rail franchises, the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern Routes have been operated by Govia Thameslink since 2014. In 2016–17, passengers made 321 million journeys on the franchise.

According to a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report, 7.7% of services on this franchise were cancelled or delayed by more than 30 minutes between July 2015 and March 2017. The average for the rest of the UK network was 2.8%. Of these cancellations, the NAO estimate that 60% were a result of crew shortages and industrial action.

Govia Thameslink and the Department for Transport have agreed a £13.4 million settlement to improve service on the line.

The Committee will take evidence from the Department for Transport, Network Rail and Govia Thameslink on the performance of the franchise, about the department’s approach to awarding franchises, and about the condition of the rail network in the South East.


Read all transcripts, written evidence and other material related to the inquiry on Rail Franchising in the UK.

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