An information notice published by the Department for Transport would allow it to directly award a contract for the operation of Cross Country service for a maximum of 60 months from the end of Arriva’s current contract in October 2019.
The Cross Country franchise was won by Arriva back in 2007, with services currently being operated by its XC Trains Ltd subsidiary under a three-year direct award contract running from September 2016 to October 2019.
Initially, the next franchise was scheduled to be awarded in 2019 following a competitive tender. However, because the procurement process was put on hold in September when the government announced a comprehensive review of the rail sector, that did now happen. With the Cross Country franchise covering regional and long distance services stretching across Great Britain and interfacing with many other operators, DfT felt this geographical scope could impact on the review’s conclusions.
Although the review is expected to be completed in 2019, the government anticipates that any reforms could be implemented from 2020.
Authorities planning a direct award are required by the European Union rules to give 12 months’ notice of their intention, as well as specify a 60 month limit on the contract duration. The publication of the OJEU notice on October 13 leaves DfT with the option to directly award a contract in compliance with the EU rules, but it could also use an alternative method to appoint an operator.
The 12-month notice period covers the UK’s expected departure from the EU on March 29 2019, after which it would no longer be subject to EU procurement rules.