Tough demands set out for companies bidding to take over South Eastern train franchise

Southeastern trains

The competition for the next company to run the rail network between Kent and London opens today – and there are improvements demanded by Rail Minister Paul Maynard and the Department for Transport.

Under new plans, the network, currently run by South Eastern, will be the first in the country where a single director is responsible for a joint team – made up from the train operator and Network Rail – that operates the trains and the tracks on a day to day basis and is accountable for the performance of the network.

Bidders will need to show how they can deliver extra services and more space for passengers on services across the region, as well as providing greater connectivity, smarter ticketing systems and improved compensation.

The next operator must:

  • provide longer trains and upgrade or replace older trains, creating space for at least an extra 40,000 passengers
  • introduce fast wifi on all services, making journeys more productive and enjoyable for passengers
  • bring in improved compensation with a simple, easy to claim system that will provide a refund after 15 minutes
  • introduce new smart ticketing systems, including a pilot for pay-as-you-go
  • improve customer service, with staff better able to respond quickly to passenger’s needs
  • deliver significantly enhanced cooperation between Network Rail and operator through a new structure designed to increase the reliability of the railway and put the passenger first in all decision making

Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: “We are investing in the biggest railway modernisation for over a century. Today marks a major step forward in giving passengers better journeys across the south-east and beyond.

“We’ve listened carefully to passengers and have introduced innovative new plans that see smoother, more comfortable journeys for passengers, with new, longer trains and more space.

“South Eastern will be also – for the first time – be run by a joint team from the operator and Network Rail under a single director – responsible for day-to day performance and accountable to passengers.”


South Eastern services carry 640,000 passenger journeys a day and will soon need to integrate with future Thameslink and Crossrail services to transform the way people travel across London and the south-east.

The next operator must also meet tough targets for improved wifi to increase the speed of data connection and coverage on trains.

And travellers must be able to claim compensation quickly and easily when their journey is delayed by more than 15 minutes under an improved Delay Repay scheme.

More than 10,000 responses were received for the department’s consultation on the future of South Eastern.

South Eastern trains will still travel to the same London stations as at present, including Victoria, Charing Cross and Cannon Street.

Bids are open

Invitation to tender documents for the South Eastern franchise were published by the Department for transport today (November 29).

The chosen operator will take over services from April 2019.

The tender documents set out what rail services the government requires bidders to provide when running franchises. Bidders will respond to these documents with their propositions. The Department for Transport (DfT) will then evaluate them before announcing the preferred bidder in November 2018.