The Department for Transport (DfT) in the UK has terminated the bidding process to select the next South Eastern franchise operator.

Concurrently, the department awarded the incumbent operator of the Southeastern franchise an extension to run services until 1 April 2020. Originally, the agreement was due to expire on 10 November this year.

The South Eastern rail franchise involves passenger rail services between London and Kent, as well as parts of East Sussex.

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 government plans to work on a solution to improve railway capacity and performance.

It is also planning to implement the recommendations of a review being conducted by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams. Earlier, Williams suggested scrapping the existing rail franchise system to boost efficiency.

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Currently, Go-Ahead runs the Southeastern franchise with Koelis through their Govia joint venture.

In a statement, Go-Ahead expressed disappointment that the bidding process was not taken forward. However, it noted that the operator will work with DfT to continue providing passenger-focused services.

Southeastern managing director David Statham 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 wi-fi 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.”