scotland (4K)
The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

Franchise News

The Scottish Government has announced the programme for the letting of the separate Caledonian Sleeper and ScotRail franchises; the official timescale is shown in the table below. As a respected railway commentator often warns us, we should always be wary of the use of seasons in government timetables rather than actual dates.

Date Caledonian Sleepers ScotRail
Summer, 2013 Issue ITT
Winter, 2013 Bidders submit ITT response Issue ITT
Spring, 2014 Bidders submit ITT response
Summer, 2014 Notify winning bidder
Autumn, 2014 Notify winning bidder
Spring, 2015 Commence franchise Commence franchise

Before the ITT (Invitation to Tender) is issued, a Notice appears in the Official Journal of the European Union inviting potential bidders to complete a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. This is used to assess the financial, technical and professional suitability of potential bidders. Three companies - Arriva Night Trains Ltd, Serco Ltd and First Caledonian Sleeper Ltd - have been shortlisted to tender for the Sleeper franchise. All have experience of running sleeper services: First Group here at ScotRail and Great Western, Arriva in Germany through its owing company Deutsche Bahn, and Serco in Australia. In August, Transport Scotland announced they wanted passengers to feel that, as soon as they boarded the train, they were stepping foot in Scotland. The sort of facilities that could be provided (our italics) might include a premium dining service, en-suite toilets in business class berths and showers. The previously announced £50m for upgrades has been increased to £60m, with another £50m still coming from the Westminster government, which the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Danny Alexander, who is also Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said is "thanks to the Liberal Democrats in the UK government." FNE 56 (May, 2012) carried an article suggesting how the operational costs of running the sleepers could be reduced; this had been included in our submission to the Rail 2014 process. The Sleeper ITT documents are expected to be issued in the autumn, with responses due at the turn of the year.

Notwithstanding that the ITT for the ScotRail franchise has yet to be issued, at the end of August, the media reported that Abellio, the overseas division of Netherlands Railways which runs Northern Trains, Merseyrail and Greater Anglia, has issued a tender document for the supply of 400 electric trains for Scotland. We suspect that this actually means 400 vehicles, probably in four-car sets.

The starting date for both franchises is 1st April, 2015.

Meanwhile, over the border in England, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that the new East Coast franchise will start in February, 2015. There is currently no suggestion that Inverness and Aberdeen services may be curtailed at Edinburgh but neither is any enhancement proposed. The present operator, Directly Operated Railways, is a government-owned company that took over when National Express East Coast was refused financial support from its parent company and lost its franchise. The original intention had been to restore the franchise to private ownership by the end of 2013 but fall-out from the widely-reported problems re-letting West Coast delayed this. We have continued to lobby for the reinstatement of the restaurant cars on the Highland Chieftain between Edinburgh and Inverness that were withdrawn in January, 2009 without any warning and we are pleased to report that, following a public consultation, Passenger Focus is recommending to the DfT that, in the new franchise, key business trains and other long-distance trains which run over meal times offer the facility to obtain a hot meal in both Standard and First Class; this would include the Highland Chieftain. However, the DfT has also announced that, by 2019, all East Coast trains will be formed of Hitachi Super Express Trains supplied under the Intercity Express Programme. Sadly, these trains are unlikely to feature full kitchens.