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Author Topic: Sharing GW consultation inputs with First  (Read 563 times)
eightonedee
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« on: June 22, 2018, 10:01:11 pm »

I think Bignosemac might be right!

This was in my Inbox today -

"Dear Consultee

 

Thank you for your response to the DfT’s recent consultation on the Great Western Franchise. We are currently considering the responses and will summarise the outcomes in a Stakeholder Briefing Document in due course.

 

In the meantime, we have been asked by First Group if they can see the full responses, to help them develop proposals for the future franchise that are informed by the views that people have expressed in their consultation responses. We recognise that not everyone will necessarily wish for their response (including any personal details) to be shared with First Group.  So, rather than share those responses directly, we are inviting you to decide for yourself and to forward your own response if you wish to do so.

 

First Group have provided a dedicated email address for this purpose. If you wish to amend or redact your response to omit personal details then you are welcome to do so.

If you would like First Group to see your response, then please forward it to them at: consultations@gwr.com

 

If you would prefer not to forward your response then please take no further action and be assured that this will in no way affect how your response is viewed as part of the DfT’s own consultation analysis.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to respond

Kind regards

 

GW Consultation Team"

 ...and this is how I responded-

"To - the GW Consultation Team, Dept of Transport

Thank you for your email.

I am concerned that the current franchisee is being allowed to pass on this request. Shouldn't it be the case that any prospective bidder that might be interested should be able to make this request?

FGW/GWR have held this franchise long enough, and must have received more than enough complaints from fed-up passengers to know what we want and what we think. They have passenger panels, and there is a website (GWR Coffee Shop) that provides a forum for suggestions and complaints. I see no reason why they should be allowed to use departmental resources to secure an advantage over other bidders. This tends to reinforce the impression that First Group might already be a shoe-in for a new franchise or extension.

Can I suggest that you instead ask consultees if they would be prepared to allow there responses with their personal details redacted to be made available to any prospective bidder in due course?  Or require First Group to forward any comments received to Govia, National Express, Stagecoach, Arriva & Abellio?

I might add that as a daily commuter, who changes trains at one of the busiest stations (Reading), I only found out about the consultation by accident (on a BBC regional webpage that is not my local one). I have spoken to a number of my fellow Thames Valley commuters, and none were  aware that a consultation has been undertaken. There has been nothing I have seen in the local press (I take both a Reading and a Newbury local paper), nor on any regional TV programme. I have not seen any posters at any station. I have just discovered today that there is currently a consultation on the future of the Cross Country franchise, another route I sometimes use, and which serves my locality. The same comments apply about the lack of publicity.

Can I suggest a review of public consultation arrangements for rail franchise renewals be undertaken?"

I might add (as a "Newbie") that I only discovered GWR Coffee Shop after nearly missing the GW Franchise consultation. I am still finding my way around, so thank you Graeme for alerting me to the XC consultation. I hope DfT does not use it as a way of giving the current franchisee an advantage over competitors, although my experience of Arriva XC has been generally satisfactory (sometimes good!) - it is a shame few seem to know their services exist.


 



« Last Edit: June 22, 2018, 10:15:50 pm by eightonedee » Logged
grahame
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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2018, 07:16:11 am »

I am concerned that the current franchisee is being allowed to pass on this request. Shouldn't it be the case that any prospective bidder that might be interested should be able to make this request?

FGW/GWR have held this franchise long enough, and must have received more than enough complaints from fed-up passengers to know what we want and what we think. They have passenger panels, and there is a website (GWR Coffee Shop) that provides a forum for suggestions and complaints. I see no reason why they should be allowed to use departmental resources to secure an advantage over other bidders. This tends to reinforce the impression that First Group might already be a shoe-in for a new franchise or extension.

Can I suggest that you instead ask consultees if they would be prepared to allow there responses with their personal details redacted to be made available to any prospective bidder in due course?  Or require First Group to forward any comments received to Govia, National Express, Stagecoach, Arriva & Abellio?

At this stage, the Department for Transport is formulating the invitation to tender for a 2 or 4 year extension to the current operating arrangement ... and looking at potential changes to what's requested and delivered within those extra years.  Only First Group is bidding outside the DfT, the alternative to awarding the bid being for the DfT to take the operation under government control as happens - err - later today - with LNER.  And on that basis, a sharing of inputs by specific action of the original submitter with First Group s no bias against anyone else - indeed it could be argued that you should submit such data to First, as you have already submitted it to the government who are in essence the other bidder this time around.

Looking forward, in 3 or 5 years time (current year plus the 2 or 4) the GW area should again go out to franchise, and the consultation inputs are also being used or will be used to formulate initial direction there - indeed they years up to that award should be providing first steps in that direction and not be isolated changes, as things take a long time in rail and joined up, thought through development is sensible.  I understand that some 18 organisations have bidding "passports" which allow them to bid for franchises, but at this stage I would be surprised if any of the 18 in the pool have a team on the GW bid for 2022 / 2024 start, nor will there have been expressions of interest.

Anyone who wants can have a copy of my personal input to the consultation. The forum input is in the public domain. TransWilts and TravelWatch both work with any and all bidders and operators as critical friends too.  And in these cases it would be counterproductive not to share our thought, comments, desires with the company or companies who can help us meet those desires.  I appreciate that view may not be totally shared - for example, by people who have submitted inputs requesting that rail operation be taken into total government control and out of the hands of none-uk-government companies.

There are other comments I'm going to make on this post - it's a very useful fuel to may discussions reviewing the process now that it's in the next phase.  But in separate responses to avoid one of my monolith posts!   Thank you eightonedee for adding the fuel.   Love it!
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2018, 07:57:17 am »

I might add that as a daily commuter, who changes trains at one of the busiest stations (Reading), I only found out about the consultation by accident (on a BBC regional webpage that is not my local one). I have spoken to a number of my fellow Thames Valley commuters, and none were  aware that a consultation has been undertaken. There has been nothing I have seen in the local press (I take both a Reading and a Newbury local paper), nor on any regional TV programme. I have not seen any posters at any station. I have just discovered today that there is currently a consultation on the future of the Cross Country franchise, another route I sometimes use, and which serves my locality. The same comments apply about the lack of publicity.

Can I suggest a review of public consultation arrangements for rail franchise renewals be undertaken?"

Totally away from rail but in my home town, I allowed myself to accept an invite to joint a body of informed local representatives of various elements to help formulate and advice our unitary council on the provision of a council services campus in the town.  The work done was massive, the outcome thus far has been bitterly disappointing - but the purpose of me mentioning it here is to say just how darned hard it was for us to reach and interest the public. At one meeting, we counted up the avenues we had used to reach people, and there were about 10 of them, some not cheap.  And yet we still got "I did not hear about this" feedback.

Consultations and committees are not sexy.   There is limited editorial space in the local press (and questions about who reads the local paper anyway - that is VERY patchy from one town to the next) and it's a struggle to get coverage. The same for local radio and TV.  The interest comes, alas, after the sh*t has hit the fan.

Garnering interest from the public, ironically, seems much easier for the smaller lines and services than that bigger ones.  I could tell you a tale of three stations - Melksham, Chippenham and Swindon and how the interest is totally disproportionate to the traffic flow.   I stood at Melksham on Thursday evening last, spoke with most passengers arriving off the (only) train that arrives from Swindon between 4 and 7 p.m., and ensured they were informed on upcoming engineering.   The previous Thursday I stood for most of the day in the entrance to Swindon Station but engagement was limited to only a tiny fraction of a percent of the people who came through.  "Have service and will only interact to complain when it fails" is the common perceived attitude.

But certainly the rail industry could try harder.  There was supposed to be a poster up at each station about the consultation that was taking place.   I know it was missing at some (or even many), and I know it was placed in an obscure location at some places, and displayed for a disappointingly short period.   Then comes the question "do people engage and follow up from a poster they see" and evidence suggests its a very thin response.

I personally got involved in looking for an appropriate train service for my town when I read a letter in the local paper ... "do you realise you have just missed the consultation ..." - a note of some frustration from someone trying again the elements listed above to get public engagement.  I don't say "thank you" enough to that gentleman; a butterfly flapped its wings and set of a series of steps that have - well - changed my life! 



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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2018, 08:13:42 am »

I might add (as a "Newbie") that I only discovered GWR Coffee Shop after nearly missing the GW Franchise consultation. I am still finding my way around, so thank you Graeme for alerting me to the XC consultation. I hope DfT does not use it as a way of giving the current franchisee an advantage over competitors, although my experience of Arriva XC has been generally satisfactory (sometimes good!) - it is a shame few seem to know their services exist.

Third of three responses from me - wow, what a fantastic "lead" post.

I was at the TravelWatch SouthWest members discussion on the XC franchise yesterday - we got together to share views on the consultation and the 28 questions to help us (a) be informed as each group / member puts in its own response, (b) to help us put together a combined response of generally agreed elements and (c) to listen to and ask the DfT representative and Transport Focus let us know what the questions are looking to learn, and about researched general passenger desires.   A very useful day; covered in a separate thread though my personal notes will be limited as I found myself with a TWSW role to play during the meeting.

BUT ... how to inform people of all the upcoming consultations and reach people who may want to make an input?   How to encourage people to make effective inputs.   Just informing TWSW is of limited good - you help us (I am on the TWSW board) make a good, substantive, regional input, but you need to input to the DfT too.   I

On 2nd July, there's a further TWSW event - it's on the calendar - on Travel Planning, and we have a section added on to discuss the current fares consultation that's under way.

Which leads me on to ... is it worth completing consultations anyway, or are they just box-ticking exercises?  I am convince that - with a significant number of exceptions - they are useful.   They may US think about what they want.  And if they come in to the consultation organiser with a substantial response in the same direction, on questions that have not been loaded, they give the organiser a guide as to where to go for the future that's being consulted on.  If a civil servant or politician gets a joined up groundswell in one direction ... (s)he is ono going to ignore it at her/his peril, especially if it's a joined up and workable response or suggestion.
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« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2018, 08:19:35 am »

I think I / we have strayed totally off thread topic here and some housekeeping is called for.  However, I have a conference to get to for today learning about 3 campaigns and sets of development out of our GWR area, and a workshop this afternoon "led by Railfuture director Stewart Palmer (former SWT Managing Director) focusing on how campaigners should engage with TOCs to be successful (such as timetables that passengers want)." .. I am really looking forward to that.
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« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2018, 09:59:37 am »

Why do franchises have to make money?

Surely First could run the franchise for the government for a fixed fee.


But that approach might not provide motivation for First to look after the interests of the government which is owned / funded by the taxpayer.    "We've done what we've been instructed to do - now pay us our fee".   And it would stifle out of the system any motivation for the operator to try things; I appreciate that "cap and collar" had that effect for a number of years ...
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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2018, 07:57:43 pm »

I have split this topic off from "Firstbust" and move it from the bus board to "Across the West" ... we have strayed off topic and this is important not to loose in the more specialist board.
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2018, 09:49:27 am »

…….they used to say it was the first signs of madness...……. Shocked
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eightonedee
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« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2018, 08:54:43 pm »

Thanks Graeme for your comprehensive responses.

As regards bringing consultations to our attention, perhaps it should be part of the franchise specification that in the run up to a renewal the franchisee should send an email alert to all customers on its contact list and leaflets on trains. At the very least, the teams that are periodically employed to hand out questionnaires could be retained to hand out consultation questionnaires at this time. In our part of the world we get these (from memory) about once every two years. A single poster at a station like Reading would be absolutely useless!

I take your point about apathy among consultees, but the opportunity would be welcomed.

As regards the value of completing a consultation response - if you do, you might just make a tiny difference. If you don't, you won't! There does though seem to be an element of box ticking in some of the questions on the Cross Country questionnaire - notably the Community Rail Partnerships question at the end. This seems to have limited application to this franchise, and would surely have been more appropriately dealt with by a few letters or emails to the organisations involved. I also had the impression consultees were being softened up for decisions already made - such as curtailing services north of Northallerton. It did though make me appreciate that there is one issue that cuts across the XC/GW franchises which I will raise in a separate post.

 
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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2018, 09:31:38 pm »

As regards the value of completing a consultation response - if you do, you might just make a tiny difference. If you don't, you won't!

Even if you don't think you've made a difference, you might.  "There were only seven responses concerning the Swindon to Westbury service, and not all of them were in favour of retaining it". I remember that wording from the DfT some 12 years ago.

Quote
There does though seem to be an element of box ticking in some of the questions on the Cross Country questionnaire - notably the Community Rail Partnerships question at the end. This seems to have limited application to this franchise, and would surely have been more appropriately dealt with by a few letters or emails to the organisations involved.

The Great Western franchise consultation stood out as being a real engagement for the most part; the rail fare one has me very worried.

It is 110% right to ask widely about Community Rail to ensure that some organisations who may be in or near that category or have views are not overlooked.


Quote
I also had the impression consultees were being softened up for decisions already made - such as curtailing services north of Northallerton.

"Looking for support for our ideas" may be what the DfT chap is thinking  Grin Grin
 
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2018, 12:32:23 am »

I have spoken to a number of my fellow Thames Valley commuters, and none were  aware that a consultation has been undertaken. There has been nothing I have seen in the local press (I take both a Reading and a Newbury local paper), nor on any regional TV programme. I have not seen any posters at any station. I have just discovered today that there is currently a consultation on the future of the Cross Country franchise, another route I sometimes use, and which serves my locality. The same comments apply about the lack of publicity.

Its strange because down in the South West we have posters displayed for both franchise consultations, displayed under Network Rail branding. I recall them at at least 5 stations.
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