On Wednesday, new Transport Secretary Lord Adonis awarded the new South Central contract to the Govia who are ostensibly operating the franchise now, albeit it under another name and with very minor alterations in remit. Govia - a joint venture between the Go-Ahead Group and Keolis - announced that it will retain its 'Southern' name for the franchise, which commences on 20 September until July 2015 - one of the shortest franchises ever awarded.
If the franchise fails to achieve its performance benchmarks the DfT has the option to terminate a year early in July 2014. Alternatively, the contract may be extended by up to 2 years to run until July 2017, subject to the following requirements being instigated:
- trains with 10 cars for suburban journeys with delivery starting in 2011 and being completed by 2013
- trains every 15 mins until 11pm Monday to Saturday and new late night services in South London on Friday and Saturday nights with most routes running trains until 1am
- more trains operating through South London on Sundays, with frequencies generally every 15 mins
- a new service to Southampton Airport
- additional late trains between London-Uckfield
- Brighton-Southampton to see an hourly service on Sundays
- additional late night Brighton-Worthing journeys
Additionally, new ticket gates will be installed at 22 stations (on top of the 14 South London stations being gated prior to the franchise commencement) and almost all South London stations will be staffed from the first to last service of the day. There will be major refurbishments at Brighton, Haywards Heath, Hove, Lewes, Redhill, Three Bridges and Worthing stations.
At a time of financial uncertainty, and the prospect of some train franchises having to be handed back, the DfT has gone for a safe pair of hands in allowing Govia to continue operating the franchise. And who can blame them? ('Banshee')