I was heartened this morning to read that the “government” has stripped National Express of its franchise for the East Coast main line.
When services are failing to meet the set standards action needs to be taken. National Express’ financial situation allied to its failing services prompted the “government” to act. In an interesting statement Lord Adonis said
“The government is not prepared to renegotiate rail franchises, because I’m simply not prepared to bail out companies that are unable to meet their commitments.”It is simply unacceptable to reap the benefits of contracts when times are good, only to walk away from them when times become more challenging.”
In a statement, the government added that it believed it had also had grounds to end National Express’s other two other rail franchises – Easy Anglia (sic) and c2c.
Being a relocated Brummie I don’t have any experience of the East Anglia and c2c franchises. I do have plenty of experience of the old Central Trains franchise. Unreliable services, dirty trains and less than helpful staff meant I was glad to see Central Trains disestablished and LondonMidland come along. Being relocated as I now am I don’t know if LondonMidland has continued the promising start I experienced.
If you undertake a rail franchise you must be prepared to improve services for customers, not cut service provision to try and maintain a failing business. Charging customers to reserve seats didn’t go down very well. Cost cutting on new staff uniforms didn’t go down well either. As for cutting ticket office hours, that wasn’t a very bright thing to do. The delays in December didn’t help public perception. All this appears to have been done in the name of saving money so that the franchise can be maintained.
Richard Bowker, the Chief Executive of National Express has announced his resignation.