The new train operator franchise for the MarshLink line

Our MarshLink line is a small part of the very large Southern Region franchise and that franchise ends in 2015. However, the DfT has recently announced changes in the franchise regions which, if we want to make any impression on the franchise terms, will require us to submit our comments on what we want to see in the new franchise somewhat earlier than expected, in fact within the next couple of months.

At the end of last year the DfT announced its intention to merge the current Southern Region franchise (awarded to Southern Railway until 2015) with the Thameslink Region (awarded to First Capital Connect in a franchise to September 2013). The intention of the DfT is to merge the two franchises but hive off some of the inner-London lines – the new much larger region will be called (unhelpfully) the Thameslink Region.

Five companies have pre-qualified to receive the invitation to tender (“ITT”):

– Abello Thameslink Ltd (part of NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen) – First Thameslink Ltd (First Group plc)
– MTR Corporation (Thameslink) Ltd (part of MTR Corporation) – Stagecoach Thanmeslink Trains Ltd (part of Stagecoach Group plc) – Govia Thameslink RailwayLtd (part of Go-Ahead Group plc and Keolis SA).

Southern Railway is part of Govia. It is expected ITTs will be issued in October 2012, hence the urgency to submit our thoughts on franchise terms to the DfT. The successful bidder is scheduled to be announced in May 2013, contract commencing September 2013 with a minimum franchise term of 7 years – I would have expected quite a lot longer but 7 years is what they say so far.

The odd position created by our line being in the current Southern Region with franchise expiring in 2015 is that if Govia (owner of our current operator, Southern Railway) don’t win the new Thameslink Region franchise our line (and, indeed, all the current Southern Region services) will, during this interregnum period, continue to be operated by Southern Railway in a lame duck – what will entice them to provide a good service. Another issue to be put to the DfT.

Stuart Harland
MarshLink Action Group


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