Extend Rail franchise? You must be joking! (October 30th 2009)
North Thanetís MP, Roger Gale, has this (Friday) morning described as "a bit of a sick joke" proposals that the franchises available to existing Train Operating Companies should be longer.
"I donít think that travellers from East Kent, faced with ever-rising prices, longer door-to-door journey times and a reduction in services to Londonís mainline stations would welcome the idea that South Eastern Trains should have their franchise extended" says the MP.
"A case can be made for granting a longer period of tenure to facilitate much greater investment in infrastructure but that would have to be set against very clear business plans and contracts that could be readily withdrawn in the case of failure.
Personally, I would like the Operating Company to be required to take responsibility for track, signalling and stations - currently the remit of Network Rail - in addition to the operating of services. It would then be possible to let a longer-term contract that required the immediate improvement of the Ashford/Thanet line so that it could be properly used by the Javelin Train, the immediate upgrading of the signalling on the Kent Coast line, the provision of proper disabled access at stations such as Herne Bay and a general overhaul of the real estate. Unfortunately I do not think that South Easternís parent company, Govia, is likely to prove ready, willing or able to make that kind of commitment even over, say, a twenty-year period.
This needs serious consideration but extending the existing franchises is not the answer."