The UK Government has unveiled plans to introduce commuter franchises with binding obligations on service quality and tackling overcrowding as part of an initiative to provide better services for passengers.
The government has published the Reforming Rail Franchising: Government Response to Consultation & Policy Statement, which sets out its future intentions on rail franchising, and where the franchises will be extended to a period of 15 years to incentivise bidders to invest in the railways.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is also exploring options for measuring operators' performance against 'service quality' standards based on passenger satisfaction data and 'mystery shopper' visits.
The system reform will also replace the controversial cap and collar system and more stations will be passed from Network Rail control to train operators.
The government will also find a new operator for the intercity franchise on the West Coast Main Line, which expires in March 2012, and the DfT plans to issue a tender invitation to shortlisted applicants, with the winner to be announced by the end of 2011.
The franchise is proposed to last for at least 14 years and the new franchise holder will have to put forward proposals to make use of new 11-car Pendolino trains, as well as ideas for improving passenger experience onboard trains and investing in station facilities.