Train operators are concerned at the timeframe for franchise termination agreements, but are confident passengers will return.
TRAIN operators have expressed concern over the Government’s timeframe for agreeing Direct Award contracts for operators working under Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs).
The Department for Transport has extended the deadline (from December 13 to January 29) for the submission of material relating to franchise termination for nine operators that are due to transfer to Direct Awards.
After January 29, companies have seven working days to agree to the settlements proposed by Government. If they don’t, then the operator returns to the original franchise agreement. The first three ERMAs (c2c, South Western Railway and TransPennine Express) are due to expire on March 31.
ERMAs were introduced from September 20, effectively killing franchising ( RAIL 915). This followed the Emergency Measures Agreement (EMAs) introduced in March, during the first lockdown, when passenger numbers dropped to 5% of pre-pandemic levels.
FirstGroup operates TPE and is a 70/30 majority partner (with MTR) in SWR. First Rail Managing Director Steve Montgomery told MPs at the Transport Select Committee on November 18: “I have not experienced one [Direct Award] being delivered that quickly. It is something we have to work extremely hard with the Department on, to try to pull something together if we are to meet the deadline of March 31. There is a certain extension period that the Department can call upon, should we be running behind.”
That extension is up to seven four-week periods. A source told
RAIL they expect the extensions to be used.
Abellio Group MD Dominic
Booth told the TSC: “We are working on the termination process for the old franchises.
Our three [Greater Anglia, East Midlands Railway and West Midlands Trains] are in September 2021 and the end of March 2022,