Franchise struggling: a pair of SWR Class 707s approach Raynes Park en-route for Waterloo.

Shapps acts on SWR uncertainty

A request for proposal has been issued in anticipation that the South Western Railway franchise will end prematurely, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed.

FirstGroup and MTR took over the franchise in August 2017 in a seven-year deal. SWR’s accounts for the year ending 31 March 2019, published on 3 January, reported a significant operating loss, which the company said had continued beyond the year end date. While the operator has not yet failed to meet its financial commitments, the Transport Secretary said the Department for Transport was preparing suitable contingency measures, with options including a new short-term contract with SWR with ‘tightly defined performance requirements’ or transferring the operation to the Operator of Last Resort (OLR). Mr Shapps confirmed a request for proposal had been issued to current franchise holder First MTR as well as to the OLR, with responses to be evaluated.

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