New rail chaos looms as bidding for South Eastern faces further delay
THE Department for Transport is facing a fresh rail crisis over the bidding process for one of the country’s biggest franchises.
Abellio, Stagecoach and Govia have been asked to resubmit bids for the multibillion-pound South Eastern franchise, The Sunday Telegraph understands.
The decision could have grave implications for the vital rail artery that links London and the South-east, carrying 180 million passengers a year. With Govia, the incumbent operator, threatened with losing its operating licence, ministers could be left with no option but to renationalise the network as the delayed selection process is completed.
Insiders expect this summer’s retendering process – which required them to make new guarantees over workers’ pensions – to push back an already delayed timetable. Some believe a decision, which was originally scheduled for August, may now not be forthcoming until after Easter 2019.
Govia is being investigated over its role in the bungled overhaul of timetables in May. If found in breach of contract, the DFT has warned Govia could be stripped of its operating licence. There would have been no prospect of the Government stepping in if the DFT had stuck to the original South-east tendering timetable, as a new operator had been expected to be up and running later this year.
Polly Payne, Dft’s rail director general, recently warned the Government’s “operator of last resort” – which has been inserted as part of the East Coast main line renationalisation – would be mobilised to take over from Govia if it was adjudged to be negligent.
The Prime Minister is expected to announce a major review into the railways in the coming days.