Once again the ConDem coalition has rewarded failure. Ministers gave a three-and-a-half year franchise extension to Britain’s most unpopular train company.
FirstGroup’s First Great Western, which operates services from London to the Thames Valley, south Wales and south-west England, received 45,100 complaints via social media last year — the largest volume of any privateer railway.
Even though the general election is fast approaching the Con-Dem government ignored public opinion and rewarded the incompetent again.
FirstGroup chief executive Tim O’Toole boasted: “We are delighted to be awarded the contract in a deal that will deliver for passengers and taxpayers.”
But passengers and Unions had a different opinion. They said the deal again exposed the myth of competition in the privatised railway.
“Once again (Mr McLoughlin) has simply extended a franchise to the sitting tenant without any pretence at competition,” transport union TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said. “No wonder Tim O’Toole is so pleased.”
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the deal was “absolutely outrageous.”
“It guarantees the company an income with virtually no risk and no incentive to improve performance,” he pointed out.
“This award is a bad deal for passengers and a bad deal for those who work in the rail industry, as well as a bad deal for taxpayers.”
Urging renationalisation, RMT leader Mick Cash said: “The contract extension to First Great Western truly is reward for failure on a grotesque scale."
“This is a company that ducked nearly a billion pounds-worth of payments to the taxpayer, rakes in a fortune, offers lousy quality of service and treats its staff like dirt.”