First Trenitalia has today (August 14) been announced as the successful bidder to operate the West Coast Partnership, set to provide passengers with new trains, more seats, simplified fares and more frequent services on the West Coast Main Line.
Both the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps and Keith Williams, Chairman of the Rail Review, have heralded the Partnership as vital to deliver the swift introduction of significant benefits for passengers.
First Trenitalia will also act at the Shadow Operator responsible for HS2. The Government will shortly launch a review into HS2 and the Partnership has been designed in order to ensure that it can implement the review’s outcomes.
The new Partnership is also designed to fit with the direction of the Review and to facilitate the implementation of Williams’ recommendations in due course.
The Department for Transport statement added that the WCP deal “reflects a significant move away from the previous flawed franchising system to tackle issues already highlighted by the Williams Review, with the use of a Forecast Revenue Mechanism (FRM) mechanism to avoid a repeat of the issues that affected the previous East Coast Main Line. This mechanism will be supported by a new Annual Review process, to ensure partnership working is effective, collaborative and continually improving.”
Shapps has also confirmed that the Government intends to produce a White Paper in due course setting out the recommendations of Williams, to bring forward his vision for a truly passenger focused industry centred on clear, accountable leadership.
Shapps said: “This award is positive news for passengers, with more services, more direct connections and ambitious plans for a cleaner, greener railway, and also represents a decisive shift towards a new model for rail.
“It is a Partnership supported by Keith Williams, built with the flexibility to respond to his recommendations and deliver fundamental reform to a flawed system. Meeting Keith last week confirmed our shared determination to deliver a future that puts passengers at the heart of the railways, and get our trains to run on time.
“That is why I have asked Keith to produce his recommendations for a White Paper, with fearless proposals that will deliver a railway system fit for the 21st century.”
Keith Williams, Chairman of the Rail Review, said: “The railway needs reform that prioritises the customers and communities it serves, with an absolute focus on delivering benefits for passengers. I have also been clear that my review must not stop or delay investment and innovation.
“This West Coast Partnership delivers for passengers. It is a step forward that is firmly in line with the review, introducing benefits for passengers today and capable of incorporating the reforms needed for the future.”
From December 2022 there will be 263 extra trains every week. Destinations including Llandudno and Gobowen will now be served by direct trains to and from London, and Walsall will receive its first direct intercity services. Subject to approval from the Office of Rail and Road, two trains per hour will run between Liverpool and London.
Twenty-three new trains will be in traffic by December 2022, with 13 bi-mode and ten electric multiple units to be ordered, while £117 million will be spent on the existing 56-strong fleet of Pendolinos through a major refurbishment that will provide better seating and more luggage room.
For the FULL story, read RAIL 886, published on August 28, and available digitally on Android, iPad and Kindle from August 24.