The Great Western Franchise provides long-distance, commuter, regional and branch-line train services from London Paddington to the Midlands, Cotswolds, South Wales and West of England, the South Coast, Devon and Cornwall. The franchise serves the key locations of London, Reading, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, Exeter, Plymouth, Penzance, Southampton, Portsmouth, Newbury, Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester.
In 2010/11 the services that make up the current Great Western Franchise had total passenger-related revenue of GBP 679 000 000, covering 90 million passenger journeys and 3.4 million passenger miles.
The new Great Western Franchise will be largely based upon the present service structure with the following expected changes:
— The current Heathrow Connect services are planned to be transferred to the Crossrail operator from May 2018,
— The full Crossrail service is planned to operate from December 2019 and will replace the majority of the relief line services from Maidenhead to Paddington,
— In line with the Government's aspiration for decentralisation, the franchise may be let so as to permit future changes in the way that discrete parts of the network are financed, monitored and managed by organisations other than the DfT.
Options for longer term enhancements of rail links to Heathrow, such as Western Access and Airtrack Lite, are being considered and the franchise operator will be expected to engage constructively with industry partners in developing these options. The franchise operator may have the opportunity to tender for the operation of such services in due course.
It is currently expected that the franchise operator will take responsibility for the provision of rolling stock. This is likely to include the procurement of a fleet of electric multiple units to take advantage of the planned electrification. From 2017 new Intercity Express Trains ('IEP') are anticipated to be delivered to the franchise operator with the full fleet available from early 2018 which, in the event, would cause changes for the high speed fleet.
The franchise operator will be expected to take cost and revenue risk for the period of the Great Western contract. Revenue risk will be subject to a support mechanism probably linked to economic factors. This support would be complemented by a mechanism to share higher than expected profits.
The franchisee will be expected to take full repairing leases on some or all of the stations that it operates other than on network rail managed stations.
The contract will be based on the franchise agreement currently being revised in line with government policy.
The franchise operator may be able to benefit from implementing revised working arrangements with network rail. This work would align incentives and may require the franchisee and network rail to agree to different arrangements between their respective organisations.
Further details will be set out in the invitation to tender issued to shortlisted potential providers.