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Stagecoach Group PLC (SGC)

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Wednesday 10 April, 2019

Stagecoach Group PLC

Department for Transport rail franchising

RNS Number : 6939V
Stagecoach Group PLC
10 April 2019
 

10 April 2019

Department for Transport rail franchising programme

Stagecoach Group plc ("Stagecoach") has been informed by the Department for Transport ("DfT") that it has been disqualified from the current three UK rail franchise competitions.

Stagecoach was shortlisted in the following franchise competitions:

• East Midlands where it was bidding independently

• South Eastern where it was bidding with support from its intended partner Alstom

• West Coast Partnership where it was part of a joint bid with Virgin Group and SNCF

 

A senior DfT official has verbally informed Stagecoach that it has been excluded from all three competitions for submitting non-compliant bids principally in respect of pensions risk.

Bidders for these franchises were asked to bear full long-term funding risk on relevant sections of the Railways Pension Scheme. This is at a time when The Pensions Regulator is seeking additional funding because of serious doubts over the Government's ongoing support for the industry-wide scheme.

Stagecoach Group Chief Executive Martin Griffiths said: "We are extremely concerned at both the DfT's decision and its timing. The Department has had full knowledge of these bids for a lengthy period and we are seeking an urgent meeting to discuss our significant concerns.

"We have drawn on more than two decades of rail experience and worked in partnership with local stakeholders to develop high quality proposals to improve each of these rail networks.

"We bid consistent with industry guidance issued by the Rail Delivery Group and shared with the DfT. Without ongoing Government support for the long-term funding of railway pensions, The Pensions Regulator has indicated that an additional £5billion to £6billion would be needed to plug the gap in train company pensions.

"In contrast, the rail industry proposed solution would have delivered an additional £500million to £600million into the scheme. This would have provided better stability and security for members and much better value for taxpayers.  We are shocked that the Government has rejected this for a higher risk approach. We would urge that a full independent value for money review is undertaken into this issue without delay.

"Along with many other train companies, we believe strongly that the private sector should not be expected to accept material risks it cannot control and manage. In fact, this was a key finding of the Brown review into rail franchising more than six years ago. We are therefore extremely surprised that the Government still expects private operators to take risks they are not best placed to manage, despite the recent difficulties experienced by a number of operators of outsourced public sector contracts.

"Forcing rail companies to take these risks could lead to the failure of more rail franchises and cannot be in the best long-term interests of either customers, employees, taxpayers or the investors the railway needs for it to prosper.

"This is more evidence that the current franchising model is not fit for purpose, a view which has already been expressed by Keith Williams, who is leading the independent review of the rail system.

"It also further damages the already fragile investor confidence in the UK rail market and it undermines the involvement of two of the last British transport groups who are part of running Britain's railway. 

"Over more than 20 years, we have delivered industry-leading performance, record passenger growth, excellent industrial relations, and the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the sector. We will continue to focus on delivering high quality services for our customers at our existing rail businesses."

ENDS

For further information, please contact: 

 

Analysts 

Ross Paterson, Finance Director ​​​​01738 442111 

Bruce Dingwall, Group Financial Controller ​​​01738 442111 

 

Media 

Steven Stewart, Director of Corporate Communications 01738 442111 or 07764 774680 

 

Notes to Editors 

 

Stagecoach Group

 

• Stagecoach Group is a leading international public transportation group, with extensive operations in the UK, the United States and Canada. The Group employs around 31,000 people.

• Stagecoach is one of the UK's biggest bus and coach operators with over 8,000 buses and coaches on a network stretching from south-west England to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Low-cost coach service, megabus.com, operates a network of inter-city services across the UK.

• Stagecoach is a major UK rail operator, running the East Midlands Trains network and holding a 49% shareholding in Virgin Rail Group, which operates the West Coast rail franchise.

• Stagecoach operates the Supertram light rail network in Sheffield.

• In North America, Stagecoach operates around 2,100 buses and coaches in the United States and Canada. megabus.com operates a network of inter-city coach services in North America. Stagecoach is also involved in operating commuter, transit, contracted, charter, airport shuttle and sightseeing services.

 


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