You will recall that First Group decided to relinquish the GW franchise 3 years early, and on 27th July 2012 DfT invited tenders for the next franchise. The four bidders are First, Arriva, National Express and Stagecoach, who will submit their bids in October 2012, with the winner announced in March 2013 to run the franchise for 15 years from July 2013 to July 2028.
You will have noticed a gradual increase in London services over the years and FGW currently provides 9 from Penzance vice a contractual minimum of 6, so the good news is that new franchise will take the current timetable as the new base and retain the sleeper. There’s an earlier train from London to arrive in Plymouth by 10 am.
However, there are two options, either to retain the 9 through services from Penzance or to reduce the through services from 9 to 6 and implement a half-hourly service from Penzance with more connections at Plymouth. The ITT doesn’t have a preference, so bidders are required to discuss the options with local authorities and propose their optimum timetable with costs.
Excluding the sleeper, the ITT specifies a minimum of 20 weekday GW services between London and Exeter, of which at least 14 must continue to Plymouth and 6 to Penzance. There must be at least 44 GW trains between Exeter and Newton Abbot, 22 between there and Plymouth, and 17 to Penzance.
Key centres specify the minimum number of seats arriving in the morning peak (07.00 – 09.59). For Truro, 1134 of these seats must be trains to or from London and 1224 seats may be non-London trains. (There could be a CRS competition to count them!)
Interestingly, the ITT includes a note to say that GW services may be extended from Banbury to Stratford and Southampton to Poole. The former was part of Thames Trains until transferred to Chiltern, but I don’t think the latter has ever seen GW services.
Several projects are due to be delivered during the franchise:
Reading Station and Depot (2015),
GWML Gauge Enhancement to W10, Resignalling and Electrification (2018),
Southampton – W Midlands Gauge Enhancement to W10 and Electrification (2018),
Cornwall Resignalling (2017),
Worcester Resignalling (2018),
Greenford Resignalling (2018),
European Train Control System Level 2 (2017 – 2026),
Swindon – Kemble Redoubling (2014),
Crossrail (2018 – 2019),
High Speed 2 (2026),
Heathrow Western Access (2024),
Bletchley – Oxford Reopening (2017),
Intercity Express Programme (2017).
Other less tangible improvements include:
Performance (train timekeeping and reliability),
Customer Experience (passenger environment and information),
Station Environment and Accessibility (new stations at Marsh Barton and S Worcs Parkway),
Fares Policy and Marketing (increases of RPI+3 in 2013 and 2014 and then RPI+1),
Ticket Sales & Revenue Protection (smartcards and vending machines),
Stakeholder Relations & Decentralisation.
There are options for service enhancements:
Swindon – Westbury: one train every 2 hours (Dec 2013),
Newton Abbot – Paignton: half-hourly service (Dec 2013),
Exeter – Okehampton Reopening (Dec 2014),
Bere Alston – Tavistock Reopening (Dec 2016),
Bristol – Portishead Reopening (Dec 2017),
London – Penzance: consolidation of 9 services (Dec 2013), OR
Plymouth – Penzance: half-hourly service (Dec 2017),
St Ives trains extended to Penzance (May 2014),
Liskeard – Looe: later trains (Easter 2014),
Westbury – Weymouth: hourly service (May 2014).