Today the Government has announced that they have reached an agreement with Southeastern for a new directly awarded contract until 2018.
The thinking behind the Government’s decision to continue with Southeastern as the operator of the franchise is that with the huge engineering programme taking place at London Bridge over the next few years, which will deliver benefits for passengers in the long-term, it would make sense for the chosen operator to have a full understanding of the network believing that they will be best placed to minimise the inevitable disruption to passengers’ journeys.
With that said, this is not simply carrying on with the same franchise agreement as before. The Government has rightly acknowledged that the level of service provided by Southeastern over the course of the current franchise negotiated by the previous Government has often fallen below passengers’ expectations, with passenger also facing some of the highest fare increases in the country. These are points I have also consistently raised with Ministers and Southeastern making clear the need for rapid improvements.
Therefore, the Government has negotiated a new contract with Southeastern which sets out £70million worth of investment, new direct services between Maidstone East and Blackfriars, High Speed services calling at Snodland, tough performance targets and tougher financial penalties for poor performance, and much needed investment in rolling stock with 95,000 extra seats and improved facilities. On top of these improvements, the Government has recently announced that rail fares will be frozen in real terms for another year, which is welcome news indeed.
I know passengers will want to see rapid improvements to their services and rest assured I will be monitoring Southeastern’s progress very carefully.
More details on today’s announcement can be found via the Government’s website: