Franchise Extension

In January 2013, Cat was most upset after finding out First Great Western Would be granted a 6 month extension to services following the UK Government’s ballsups in the bid for the West Coast Mainline. The outcome was simple, extend the painful tentacle of FGW for several months whilst the mess was sorted out. First had decided not to fulfil it’s franchise commitment, and threw in the towel, saving hundreds of millions of pounds due to the UK Government. So far so good!

Let’s quickly summarise, as of 2015!

  • 2006 Current First Great Western franchise begins 2006, due to end April 2013
  • 2011 First abandons Great Western franchise extension. This would have extended the franchise to 2016, and saves FGW £800m.
  • 2012 First fails in bid for West Coast Mainline
  • 2012 FGW bid for Great Western franchise, and are granted a 6 month extension to the current franchise whilst the WCML bid mess is examined
  • 2013 (March) Franchise extension looks a very real possibility
  • 2013 (April) Franchise originally due to end
  • 2013 (October) Temporary extension end date
  • 2013 (October) A new franchise is announced! Rejoice! A new franchise due to end in September 2015? But obviously completely different to the franchise due to end in 2016, which would have required First Great Western to hand £800m to the UK Government
  • 2014 (March) Another new franchise is rumoured, taking FGW on to 2020! That was very quick!
  • 2014 (October) The franchise extension is confirmed! No competition, no contest! Keep your photos coming!
  • 2015 (March) A new franchise until 2019 is formally announced, in what could only be described as the world’s worst kept secret! First Group shares plummet shortly afterwards. Whoopsy! We’ve just inferred a connection!
  • 2015 (September) First Great Western, GWR “FGW Rebrand to GWR” (their word) to become Great Western Railway!

As the only Train Operating Company involved in bidding for the franchise, we were certainly shocked when FGW won the extension until 2015. A few months later, and it looks like that’s been changed to 2020! What are the odds!

One thing is very clear – the FGW twitter feed is full of "improvements shortly" and notes on the new trains that should be arriving soon. They certainly paint a very rosy picture of their future services. "It’ll all get better when you renew our franchise".

An improvement soon.  Jam tomorrow!

An improvement soon. Jam tomorrow!

Let’s recap on a few items. They have been an organisation that for several months prior to the October 2013 franchise announcement, been acting as if the franchise extension is in the bag. The Railway: First Great Western began on TV, with the franchise due to end mid-way through the TV show. Ticket prices were increased in September through to 2014. How could either of these be achieved without a guarantee of being in the driving seat?

Let’s begin:

So, FGW, can we assume that this will now be resolved with a new franchise due to end in Summer 2016? This is now a non-issue?

Perhaps the Government can help? Perhaps not.

THE Transport Minister who insisted inflation-busting fare hikes were "not too bad" has forced taxpayers to shell out thousands for his train travel. The Mirror.

Simon Burns, minister responsible for train fares, uses £80,000-a-year chauffeur-driven government car to ‘avoid overcrowded trains’. The Independent.


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