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Author Topic: FirstGroup win InterCity West Coast Franchise  (Read 29402 times)
EBrown
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« Reply #240 on: September 10, 2012, 10:23:34 PM »

Genuine, confirmed by the Head of Marketing (Mainline).

Sir Richard even commented: "Let's hope not Chiltern.. but thank you"
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Btline
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« Reply #241 on: September 10, 2012, 10:32:01 PM »

Hee hee - was hoping it was true.

Trumps the "Still a Virgin?" adverts put in the papers on the First day of Chiltern Mainline a year ago.
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IndustryInsider
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« Reply #242 on: September 18, 2012, 02:34:03 PM »

You may expect it broadgage but that doesn't mean it will happen.

Why not wait and see what First actually propose to do when they refurbish the Pendolinos and Voyagers?

I cant see how First expect to carry more passengers and raise more revenue from a nearly fixed train fleet without much higher density seating in the new third class.
I did not speculate on 2+3 seating because I took that for granted in third.
Other TOCs have shown the way in this regard.
"thousands of extra seats"  "options to suit all budgets "
And the infamous "it is what customers want, surveys show it"

It could certainly be argued that parts of the West coast route serve long distance commuters, in much the same way as FGW HSTs do, and similar arguments could be applied to justify downgrading the seating layout from inter city to commuter.

MY negative thoughts regarding "improvements" are not entirely aimed at First group since I believe that similar downgrades would been done by Virgin had they retained the franchise.
Higher density seating, removal of tables and luggage space and downgrading catering is generally regarded as progress on todays railway, and does indeed provide more seats.

Interesting quotes from Vernon Barker the new MD for First of the West Coast franchise in the latest RAIL magazine.

He says that the on-board shop will be retained and refurbished and will operate in conjunction with a trolley service.  Also talk of more comfortable seats in standard class together with more tables at a slight loss of overall standard class capacity.  Enhancement of the catering on offer to First Class passengers is talked about, as well as a few details of what the intermediate Business Class is likely to offer - presumably using one or two of the current First Class carriages?  Free wi-fi for all passengers is also promised.

The proof will be in the pudding I suppose, but it doesn't sound like your doom and gloom scenarios will be happening, and your talk of Pendolinos having 2+3 seating in 'third' class really is just silly.
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Southern Stag
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« Reply #243 on: September 18, 2012, 04:35:26 PM »

Enhancement of the catering on offer to First Class passengers is talked about, as well as a few details of what the intermediate Business Class is likely to offer - presumably using one or two of the current First Class carriages? 
Presumably using the current Carriage D in Voyagers, which can be either First or Standard at the moment, and Carriage G in Pendolinos which is a full First Class carriage but the first to be declassified at busy times. It's feasible that they could introduce the Business Class before refurbishment if they used those carriages. I suppose it depends on whether the final layout is 2+1 or 2+2. If it's going to be 2+2 you might not want to give passengers 2+1 for a period, just to downgrade them to 2+2 with refurbishment.
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Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #244 on: September 19, 2012, 02:23:55 PM »

From RailNews:

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MP attacks 'Dick Turpin' rail operators

The House of Commons has heard that taxpayers have been 'held to ransom' by 'Dick Turpin' rail operators who have surrendered their franchises unexpectedly. The accusation came from Labour MP Rosie Cooper at the start of a Westminster Hall debate on the award of the Intercity West Coast franchise to FirstGroup.

The debate was essentially about the ePetition which calls for the West Coast franchise decision to be reconsidered. It has now attracted just over 173,000 signatures.

The Transport Committee has already questioned representatives from FirstGroup and Virgin Trains, as well as the new transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and the DfT permanent secretary Philip Rutnam. The Committee had questioned the contentious issue of how likely the franchise was to fail, and how large the financial buffer or 'subordinated loan' provided by the franchise holder should be. Virgin's would have been £40 million, as against roughly £200 million from FirstGroup, although Virgin has claimed that First's loan should have been £600 million.

The debate's sponsor Rosie Cooper, who represents West Lancashire, wanted to know what negotiations had taken place with the DfT about the amount of risk, and described £200 million as 'very small'. She maintained that 'a number' of train operators had 'handed the keys back', 'such as the East Coast Main Line'.

Two operators have surrendered their franchises early on East Coast in recent years – GNER and National Express. Before that, the only unscheduled halts had affected the Connex South Central and Connex South Eastern contracts, which were terminated by the Strategic Rail Authority in 2001 and 2003, plus the unsuccessful bid by Virgin to continue with its CrossCountry franchise in 2007 after a period of control by the Strategic Rail Authority in connection with the delayed West Coast Main Line modernisation project.

The current First Great Western franchise is also ending three years early in 2013, but in this case the franchise holder decided not to continue with an optional contract extension.

Ms Cooper saw at least some of these abandonments as setting an ominous precedent. She said: "I believe that Members want to be assured that that will not happen again and that taxpayers have an assurance that they will not be held to ransom by Dick Turpin train operators asking them to stand and deliver, having secured the contract on a bogus premise, taking their profits and scarpering when it is time to deliver the promised high return."

MP Daniel Kawczynski said: "I hope that the hon. Lady is not referring to any train operators as Dick Turpin-type figures," to which Ms Cooper responded: "Oh, I think there are a lot of Dick Turpin-type figures about. I would very much like to hear from the Minister on this precise point: has the Department applied its own rules or not? Given the whole handling of the process, a judicial review has been applied for, which has left us in a position where re-nationalising the line is being considered."

Various MPs then spoke vigorously in support of either bid, but several repeatedly questioned the Department for Transport's calculations of risk.

Towards the end of the three-hour debate, recently-appointed transport minister Stephen Hammond replied on behalf of the Government. He warned his audience that he could only go so far in answering the points which had been raised, or it "would probably mean I had the shortest ministerial career in history, and I do not propose to do that this afternoon."

He added: "I do not need to be reminded—I am sure that hon. Members do not either—that in cases where there is a legal challenge, it is difficult to answer all the questions that may be asked. As I said earlier, if I appear reticent, it is not any wish not to be transparent, but simply that when matters are subject to the judicial process, it is impossible to make broader comment."

In answer to the concerns about risk, he said: "In designing the franchise, some … comments and recommendations, particularly the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendations following the failure of the East Coast Main Line, have been taken into account. We therefore required First West Coast Ltd to provide a third party-backed guarantee, the largest guarantee ever required.

"The Government are confident that the Department is putting in place the right contingencies in the time scale, should the process not be completed. We expect the legal issues to be resolved so that contingency plans will not be necessary."

"The Department is confident that we have taken the right decision in the interests of taxpayers and passengers. We expect to sign the contract soon, but we intend to defend the judicial process robustly."

The next major development is expected to be the announcement of the date for a preliminary High Court hearing of Virgin's challenge of the DfT's decision.
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William Huskisson MP was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
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« Reply #245 on: October 02, 2012, 11:49:44 AM »

From the Press Association:

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FirstGroup sticks by franchise date

The transport group that beat Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Rail to win the West Coast main line said it still expected to commence the franchise as scheduled despite a legal challenge.

FirstGroup was awarded the London to Scotland line by the Department for Transport (DfT) in August but Virgin Rail, a joint venture between Virgin and Stagecoach, is pursuing a challenge against the Government department.

FirstGroup, which runs First Great Western, TransPennine Express, First Capital Connect and Scotrail services, insisted the process had been "rigorous, detailed and fair" and was preparing to commence the handover on December 9.

The Aberdeen-based group, which is also the UK's biggest bus operator, said its rail division should report an 8.1% rise in like-for-like passenger revenues in the six months to September 30, down from the 8.4% growth experienced in the year to March.

The Government has delayed the final signing of the West Coast franchise contract due to the Virgin legal challenge. Sir Richard said the DfT did not follow its own rules in choosing FirstGroup rather than Virgin to run the new 13-year franchise and described the bidding process as "insane".

If the December takeover date is postponed, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said there are procedures under which the DfT can operate the line in the public sector.

FirstGroup said its focus was "to ensure a smooth transition with continuity for staff and passengers alike and to deliver the many benefits and improvements we are offering without delay or disruption". It said all its rail franchises made a strong contribution to the rail division performance in the first half and pledged to remain focused on existing operations while developing the re-franchising programme.

The UK bus division is expected to deliver like-for-like passenger revenues growth of 2.5% in the period as challenging economic conditions continue to impact a number of its urban operations. However, during the period operations in the North of England and Scotland saw improved revenue growth.

As previously stated, FirstGroup expects UK bus operating margins to be around 8% in the full year, down from about 13% over the previous year after bearing the brunt of higher fuel costs.

FirstGroup chief executive Tim O'Toole said: "While there is significant work to do we are satisfied with the progress of the actions we have taken, though we remain mindful of the uncertain economic backdrop." Mr O'Toole said the board remained committed to its policy of dividend growth of 7% through to the end of the financial year 2012/13.
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William Huskisson MP was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #246 on: October 02, 2012, 12:09:06 PM »

From Railnews:

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Date announced for Virgin court challenge

Virgin Trains will be able to test its claim against the DfT over the award of the West Coast franchise in the High Court later this month, because the date for the start of a three-day hearing has been revealed today.

Virgin said the hearing has been set down to begin on Wednesday 17 October, which is two weeks tomorrow.

Three days have been allowed for Virgin and the Department for Transport to make their respective cases, although there is no certainty that a judgment will be given immediately the hearing ends. There is also the possibility that the losing side could apply for permission to appeal.

Virgin is contesting the award of the 13 year four month Intercity West Coast franchise to FirstGroup, which had been announced on 15 August, on the grounds that the DfT did not properly assess the degree ot risk represented by First's £5.5 billion bid.

FirstGroup is required to provide a financial buffer worth £200 million as a form of insurance against failure, but Virgin is arguing that it should have been £600 million, which both First and the Department for Transport have denied, saying that the calculations were 'robust'.

Virgin had offered premiums worth £4.8 billion at net present value -- £700 million less than First. The Virgin buffer, which like 95 per cent of First's up-front payment is technically a 'subordinated loan', was put at just £40 million. The remaining £10 million from First is to be an injection of shareholders' capital.

First said today that it is still mobilising for takeover as planned on 9 December, but it is known that representatives of Directly Operated Railways, which is owned by the DfT, are also attending the meetings in case DOR has to step in to keep the service going.
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William Huskisson MP was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
bignosemac
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« Reply #247 on: October 04, 2012, 06:20:00 PM »

Subsequent discussion on the cancellation of the award of the Inter City West Coast franchise to FirstGroup has been split off into a new topic:

http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=11353.0
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