The new franchise will bring the operation of train services and the infrastructure closer together in a bid to improve performance. “South Eastern will, for the first time, be run by a joint team from the operator and Network Rail (NR) under a single director responsible for day-to-day performance and accountable to passengers,” says rail minister Mr Paul Maynard.

The new operator will be required to:

• provide longer trains and upgrade or replace older trains, creating space for at least an extra 40,000 passengers
• remove first-class accommodation on all services within 18 months of taking over the franchise to increase space for all commuters
• introduce fast Wi-Fi on all services
• introduce an improved compensation system which will provide a refund after 15 minutes
• introduce new smart ticketing systems, including a pilot for pay-as-you-go
• improve customer service, and
• deliver significantly enhanced cooperation between NR and operator through a new structure designed to increase the reliability of the railway and put the passenger first in all decision making.

South Eastern has been operated by Govia, a joint venture of Go-Ahead (65%) and Keolis (35%), since 2006. South Eastern services carry 640,000 passenger journeys a day.

Closing date for bids is March 14 2018. The DfT expects to award the contract in November 2018 and the new franchise will commence on April 1 2019 and end in March 2027, or March 2028 if the DfT decides to exercise its extension option.

Steer Davies Gleave, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Roland Berger, and DLA Pipe are assisting the DfT with the award of the new franchise.