The Government have announced that whoever gets the next West Coast Mainline franchise would run HS2 at the start, reinforcing fears that a lack of competition between the two routes will lead to cuts in existing services, forcing people to use a more expensive HS2 service, exactly as happened with HS1 in Kent.
In a parliamentary statement published on Friday, the potential that service cuts will happen was actually listed in the benefits of the proposed franchise arrangement, with Government stating this would mean:
- an experienced operator coming on board at an early stage to shape service design based on knowledge of the markets and passenger needs.
- a strong partner acting collaboratively with HS2 Ltd to design, launch and operate the passenger services on HS2 and manage the timetable recast of the West Coast Main Line.
Expressions of interest in the franchise will be asked for next month, with invitations to tender open in a year, before the franchise is meant to be awarded on April Fools Day, 2019.
Railway Gazette have reported, as feared, that when HS2 opens: ‘The majority of the franchise’s inter-city trains would transfer to the high speed network’, which is of course terrible news for all the intermediate stops on services from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
Whilst the franchise winner will operate HS2 for the first three to five years, they will also be involved in the testing of the system, all of which surely means the cost of running HS2 will be higher than expected.
Head of the RMT union, Mick Cash, labeled it a “scandalous decision” which will put the service in the hands of:
“The very private train operators who have failed so abysmally on the rest of our railway. Tens of billions of taxpayers money will have been spent funding High Speed 2, much of which will now be squandered on corporate welfare on an epic scale.”