ScotRail franchise – Transport Scotland sets tough targets
Franchise holders could have their concessions terminated after three years if they fail to meet pre-agreed targets stimulating off-peak travel on lightly-used services. This is but one of many demands laid down by Transport Scotland in its recently released document for the new ScotRail franchise.
A draft ITT (Invitation To Tender) has now been published for the new ten year concession, and the five pre-qualifying bidders – Abellio, Arriva, National Express ,MTR and First Group (the incumbent holder)– have until next April to make responses.
TS has prescribed a veritable shopping list of minimum service standards, which will be rigorously monitored by its own unique SQUIRE (Service Quality Incentive Regime) system. The ten year contract commences in April 2015, but will be reviewed after five years.
“Unlike previous DfT led procurements which have focused on price, the ScotRail franchise competition includes a heavy emphasis on quality, with 35% of the evaluation marks available for improvements to current services,” stresses Transport Minister, Keith Brown.
These demands are far reaching and cover many different facets of passenger operation: There is a requirement for ‘scenic train’ provision on the West Highland, Kyle and Far North lines, with the possibility of ‘premium carriages’ on standard trains. There will be an obligation to increase off-peak patronage on lightly used lines, with TS having the option of terminating the franchise if performance falls 2% below agreed forecast target for three consecutive years.
Peak time regulated standard fares on ScotRail services are to be RPI capped, and the off-peak variant will be set at RPI minus 1% (but all other fares would be unregulated). There is a mandatory requirement to introduce wi-fi capability on all trains by 2019, as well as extending (and paying for) smart and integrated ticketing throughout the network.
Transport Scotland wants accurate data on passenger usage, and requires the installation of passenger counting equipment on at least 30% of vehicles within each service group to record boarding and alighting at each station during the first two years. Catering facilities are to be provided on all intercity trains serving the seven major Scottish cities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth, Dundee and Stirling), as well as on the tourist ‘scenic’ lines aforementioned.
The successful bidder will be required to contribute £500,000 per annum to help fund Community Rail projects, and £350,000 per annum towards enhanced station access for the less able bodied. Cycle storage space at stations is to be increased by at least 500 bikes annually. A senior level Transport Integration Manager role is to be created, who will work closely with TS, bus, ferry and other transport providers.
Journey time savings are welcome but not mandatory, and bidders will not be penalised for failing to include them, though they could benefit by up to £840,000 per year per minute saved (2013 prices) on average journey times up to a cut off ten minute point. Every train will need to have at least two members of staff on board.
The new franchise holder will have to honour the existing Section 54 commitments (1993 Railways Act) with Eversholt to take over the Class 380 EMUs (deployed on the Ayr, Inverclyde and North Berwick routes) when the old franchise expires in March 2015. (There is no obligation to accept any other rolling stock). The franchisee will also be required to procure electric trains for the pending Edinburgh-Glasgow electric service – to be energised in stages between 2016 and 2018 – and these are ‘expected’ to be of new build.
A revenue share/support system will enable TS to claw back 50% of any excess revenue (if above 105% of agreed targeted annual revenue), or provide 50% revenue support if the agreed targeted annual revenue falls below 95% (but only after the fourth year). TS will also be eligible for a 50% profit share if profits exceed the minimum £30m per annum prescribed (at 2015/6 prices).
The document lays much stress on vehicle design: Among a host of minimum attributes listed come, ‘carriages running on bogies to secure good ride characteristics, seats aligned with windows wherever possible, and on board toilet provision that avoids smells being noticeable in the seated areas.’