Exeter to London train firm accused of "gaming"
A TRAIN firm which runs services between Exeter and London has been accused of 'gaming' the system without facing a penalty.
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle pointed to FirstGroup's decision to end its contract for the Great Western line three years early, and so avoiding making an estimated £800 million in payments to the Government. She highlighted it as a further flaw in the current franchise process which is already facing calls for reform after the West Coast rail line fiasco.
The costly debacle has meant the new Great Western deal, due to start next year, being put on hold pending the outcome of an independent inquiry into contracting arrangements. First Great Western has insisted it is meeting the commitment made with government. Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle is pressing for the government review to consider changing the franchise system, arguing the current one had failed to deliver the promised benefits. And she did not rule out this including bringing back the running of the railways into public hands.
One of her criticisms was the so-called 'gaming' of the system by operators, without being penalised. Ms Eagle told the Echo: "Just to remember, the reason why Great Western is coming up now is that First could have run it for another three years had it chosen to do so.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
"But they handed it back, in order to avoid making £800 million of payments to government and there doesn't seem to have been any kind of penalty, or debt, for them for doing that.
"That's another aspect of this franchising process and the way it's run which is unsatisfactory from a taxpayers point of view.
"There's been no penalty for gaming the system. I'm not accusing anybody of engaging of unlawful behaviour, or anything like that, but they have been gaming the system, and there's been no penalty for it."
But a FirstGroup spokesman said: "We are fulfilling our commitment as agreed with government. "We announced in May 2011 that we would not be taking up our option to extend the First Great Western contract for a further three years beyond the initial franchise term to 2013. "At that time, the Government had announced franchise reform and major investment in the region including the redevelopment of Reading station, re-signalling and electrification of the Great Western Main Line, the Intercity Express Programme and Crossrail. "With our unique knowledge of the franchise we believe we are best placed to manage these projects and capture the benefits for our customers in the longer term and we will put together a compelling bid. "We will continue to operate First Great Western until the current franchise ends and deliver for our customers."