Rail decision is a cause for concern
Published at 10:43, Thursday, 06 September 2012
SCHOOLS are back, holidays are over, even MPs are back in the House of Commons, albeit only for a couple of weeks before we take time off for the party conferences.
I do wonder how important the House of Commons can be to the running of the country when we can apparently afford to be there for such a short time!
The time back has allowed the Prime Minister the opportunity to reshuffle his cabinet but it has also allowed me time to call for an emergency debate on the awarding of the West Coast Rail franchise to FirstGroup in preference to Virgin trains.
As I mentioned in my last column here I have been out on the road conducting my annual summer constituency tour for the past few weeks and by far the major concern raised has been the loss of the franchise by Virgin. People feel that Virgin have done a good job over the time that they have been running the services on the West Coast. Trains are more modern, they are considerably faster and the services that they provide are felt to be good.
People are particularly worried as they have experienced the service provided by FirstGroup on the trains from Barrow and Windermere to Manchester Airport and so can make a comparison – and what they see does not thrill them.
I was particularly annoyed that the announcement of the change came during the Parliamentary recess. This has meant that there has been no chance for the House of Commons to debate the issues surrounding the change of franchisees.
Given that this is the first of the new rail franchises to be awarded under the new much longer franchise system this is a major concern. Arguably starting the new system with the largest and most important franchise was not the wisest of moves by the government but doing this without allowing parliament to scrutinise the process and the risks involved seems daft.
Nearly 170,000 people have felt strongly enough about this issue to have signed the petition calling on the government to reconsider.
What seems to be missing from the whole franchise awarding process is any genuine consideration for what the users of the service think. Money is the primary concern and we have seen, to our cost with G4S at the Olympics and various other train franchises, what can go wrong when this is what drives decisions.
I think that users and their needs must be much more at the heart of the awarding of franchises in future.
Because the petition now has over 100,000 signatories (you can sign it at the direct.gov.uk website and see if we can take the level of support over 200,000) the government has to consider debating the issue but this is complicated a bit by the judicial review that is also going on into the decision.
I will be watching this process very closely and doing my best to ensure that whatever happens the train service we get does not get any worse.
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
I too had no problems with Virgin Trains during the 8 years I worked in Barrow. Also remember Branson had all the inconvenience of the disruption of the engineering work upgrading the WCML at weekends for several years.I was working in Barrow at the time & after arriving at Glasgow Central by ScotRail on many a Sunday night I never saw another train till Carnforth. Only a relay of buses in between.Virgin lost a lot of passengers(sorry customers) through that.
Whereas First are getting the completed line handed to them on a plate.
We're still waiting on the East Kilbride/Glasgow Central line getting new trains in place of the ancient 'Sprinter' carriages.Yet all we've had on the busy E.K. line since First took over ScotRail is the same 'Sprinters' now sporting a coat of paint in the First Group livery.
Why change something which is has and is working fantastically The achievement Virgin Trains has accomplished is tremendous. I was only in Cardiff centra station the offer day and saw what trains First Group were operating from there to Lomdon -- 30 years old stock. What do they have to show in the whole time they have been running that franchise, Nothing. They have just let it run to the ground. I don't want that happening to our Virgin West coast , since it's modern, fast and it's everything the Virgin brand stands for. I as a British person want to be part of something great. I don't feel that with First Group. Let's hope the government re consider because they will be losing my loyal tory vote too at the next election for not listening to the views of the British people. .
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