September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Now in its 27th year, the Business Travel Awards
First Great Western (FGW) has come under a double broadside from Unions and politicians as fury mounts concerning its performance.
It has been a miserable week for the train operator, which also came under scorching criticism yesterday (26 February) from Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, who described its performance as ”unacceptable.”
FGW has been ordered to pay ”29m ($57m) to fund extra carriage leasing, more refurbishment, new staff and further discounted fares, but the real sanction is the Sword of Damocles threat of franchise withdrawal should it fail in future.
The beleaguered company is also in the RMT union”s sights with general secretary Bob Crow wasting no time in attacking the train operator and the franchising concept. ”Ruth Kelly has quite rightly declared that FGW has broken its franchise agreement, but the remedial plan amounts to little more than a ”29m ($57m) sticking plaster,” he said.
”Rail franchising is a king-sized con-trick that is about taking public money out of the industry. I have no doubt that First Group won”t allow the package announced to make too big a dent in its massive profits, but every penny will ultimately come from taxpayers” and fare-payers” pockets anyway.”
And just when FGW thought it had weathered the storm, a group of MPs has signed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, urging the government to examine whether or not to bring the franchise into the public sector.
Tabled by Labour MP David Drew and signed by 30 of his parliamentary colleagues, the motion notes: ”That this House calls on the government to conduct an urgent and public review to determine whether the interests of passengers would be better served by bringing the franchise back into public ownership.”
Understandably, FGW has responded in robust fashion to the barrage of bad press and insists that the ”200m it has spent since 2006, has not been badly invested. It points to the 53 high-speed trains leased for long-haul routes from London Paddington and maintains it is ”very aware of the ramification of not achieving the commitments ” it”s not an overnight fix.”