Press Notice


Passenger Rail Franchising

The Transport Committee has decided to launch an inquiry into passenger rail franchising.

Our predecessor  Committee looked at passenger rail franchising in 2001-02. Since then, franchising policy has evolved significantly with the number of franchises being reduced and new open access operators emerging. In the past year, the Department for Transport has taken back franchising policy from the defunct Strategic Rail Authority. The shape of  “third generation” franchise agreements have emerged. 

Earlier this year, the Government announced its aim to publish a long term strategy for the development and direction of the railways over the next 20 - 30 years. This long term strategy will be accompanied by a more specific five-year plan, the High Level Output Statement. It is likely that these broad strategic policy documents will set the framework for passenger rail franchising for years to come.

Questions we would like to address are:

• What should be the purpose of passenger rail franchising?

o Is the current system achieving that purpose?

• How well does the process for awarding franchises work?

o What input do operators, passengers and other interested parties have into the design of franchised services?

o Has there been a smooth transition of franchising arrangements from the Strategic Rail Authority to the Department for Transport?

• Are franchise contracts the right size, type and length?

o What criteria and processes are used to determine the nature and length of franchises?

o What criteria and processes are used to evaluate franchise bids?

o Do  franchise holders deliver value for money to passengers and the Government throughout the duration of their contracts?

o Are risks suitably apportioned between the Government and franchise holders?

o What is the scope for improving services through franchise agreements?

• Do we need more competition and vertical integration?

o Is franchising compatible with open access operations?

o Should train, rolling stock and track operation be more closely integrated?

Interested parties are invited to submit written memoranda on some or all of the above questions and associated issues to the committee before Tuesday 20th June 2006.

Memoranda should be a maximum of 6 A4 pages in length and should include a summary and a conclusion.  Please submit a single hard copy of your memorandum by post to the above address, and an electronic version, preferably a Word document, by e-mail to or alternatively on a disk with the hard copy.  If you are unable to submit an electronic version of your memorandum, please take particular care to ensure that your submission is legible. All submissions should be final and complete; the Committee does not accept draft memoranda or subsequent amendments. Memoranda submitted to the Committee should be kept confidential until published by the Committee.

Press Notice 45/2005-06   24 May 2006

Dr John Patterson, Clerk of the Committee