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Southeastern to continue running rail services in Kent as franchise competition is cancelled

The competition to run rail services in Kent has been cancelled.

Southeastern has been given a further extension to its franchise and will continue to operate trains across the county until April 2020, the Department for Transport has confirmed

The deal had been due to end in November.

The franchise had been due to end in November
The franchise had been due to end in November

A DfT spokesperson said: "We have taken the decision to cancel the South Eastern franchise competition.

"This follows significant concerns that continuing the competition process would lead to additional costs incurred to the taxpayer, with no certainty that this would deliver envisaged benefits for passengers in a timely fashion.

"The Department will use this period to develop a solution that delivers the capacity and performance benefits that passengers are expecting, and ensure that the recommendations of the Williams Review can be implemented."

In April, the government was accused of making a 'mess' of deciding who should run rail services in the county.

Our sister newspaper Kent Messenger launched a campaign earlier this year urging transport bosses to save high speed services from Maidstone West.

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch spoke in the Commons about the rail franchise process earlier this year

David Statham, Southeastern's Managing Director, said: "We’re proud to have delivered more than £80 million of improvements for passengers since we began a new Direct Award contract in 2014.

"Punctuality has improved by nearly 10% in two years, we’ve introduced free WiFi on our trains and boosted capacity on board with 5,000 extra seats.

"Over this next extension period, our focus remains squarely on our passengers, delivering more improvements and continuing to improve the punctuality and reliability of our services."

Go-Ahead Chief Executive David Brown said: "A lot of hard work was put into a strong bid that would have built upon the achievements of Southeastern in recent years in improving performance and customer satisfaction, delivering more capacity and investment.

"Whilst we’re disappointed that our original bid is not being taken forward, we will engage with the DfT on next steps."

Southeastern will continue to run rail services in the county until April 2020
Southeastern will continue to run rail services in the county until April 2020

The General Secretary of the TSSA, a union for people working in the transport industry, has described the decision to scrap the competition to find a new operator for the Southeastern rail franchise as "a vote of no confidence" in the system.

Manuel Cortes said: "This amounts to a vote of no confidence in the whole franchising process and an admission by the Government that competition on our railways simply does not work.

"Today it is clear that the whole idea of franchising has effectively been scrapped because the Government are now simply awarding contracts directly to privateers.

"The DfT has said the Southeastern decision will be used to ‘develop a solution’. I sincerely hope that Keith Williams, who is carrying out a rail review, is taking note – the only solution which will fix the franchising madness is public ownership."

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