Rail franchising to be reviewed

The House of Commons Transport Committee has launched an inquiry into rail franchising and requests that written submissions be made by no later than Friday 3rd June.

It will be the third ‘future of rail’ inquiry the committee has initiated; similar ones into rail technology and the rail passenger experience were launched in February and April respectively.

The committee says the central policy intentions of franchising should be to improve services through encouraging market competition and to shift some risk to the private sector.

The terms of reference of the inquiry have been defined:

  • The extent to which the Department for Transport’s approach to rail franchising is achieving its key policy intentions of transferring financial risk to the private sector and promoting competition in the market, while at the same time improving rail passenger experience;
  • The extent to which the Department for Transport’s approach to franchise bid evaluation strikes the right balance between cost, service quality and deliverability;
  • The Department for Transport’s franchise management capability and capacity and its ability to cope with high levels of planned franchising activity in 2016 and 2017;
  • The costs of bidding for franchises and the extent to which increasing costs may be dissuading new entrants to the market;
  • Actions which could be taken to encourage new entrants to the market;
  • The opportunities, risks and feasibility of a significant increase in Open Access Operators on the rail network;
  • Practical recommendations to better manage the effects of rail infrastructure works on rail franchisees, including through improved coordination with Network Rail and better management of major infrastructure projects.


Lessons learned from the ongoing East Anglia franchise competition will also be included. The committee will shortly undertake other ‘future of rail’ inquiries into rail safety, governance and financing.

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