East Midlands Rail Franchise

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:44 am on 11th April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 10:44 am, 11th April 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing this urgent question.

The Minister did not really answer the question. Abellio has been awarded the contract as the best bidder, but the bid of the existing franchisee was not even allowed. Generally, Stagecoach has performed reasonably well on the contract, so will he explain when the requirement was first introduced that a bidder has to cover pension costs? Is this the first franchise for which the requirement has been introduced? Why was it applied?

How much, in total, are the Government trying to cover in costs through the franchising process? When were the bidders notified of the requirement—was it at the beginning of the process?—and why was no one else told about it? Are any other companies refusing to cover such costs? Are any other franchises affected? If they are, what will be the effect on competition within the franchising system? What would happen to future competitions and to the costs that the Government seek to cover if all companies refused to cover those costs?

Finally, on the bid that has been accepted, do these hybrid trains actually exist now? When will they be introduced? What will the Government do if existing rolling stock is not disability-compliant in 2020? The Government have promised improvements to the timetable, but can we be assured that, at the beginning of the new franchise, journey times will be at least as good, and at least as short, as they were before the botched timetable changes of last year?