Wednesday, 1 July 2009

NXEC defaults on East Coast franchise

So the news has come through today that National Express have told the government that they're unable to meet their commitment to pay £1.4 billion to the taxpayer over lifetime of their franchise, as a result of which the government will take over the franchise and run it for a year. So after months of being told that National Express "must be presumed to know what they are doing," it turns out after all that they haven't a clue what they're doing, as we all suspected in the first place.

Meanwhile, NX are trying to hang onto their other two profitable franchises, c2c and NX East Anglia, though the government at the moment seems determined to take them away as punishment for their default on the East Coast route.

As an aside, National Express spent a few thousand pounds (we don't know exactly how much) a couple of months back on "rebranding" some perfectly adequate signage at York station for no reason other than that it happened to be in GNER colours; so no doubt in a year's time or so there'll be an excuse to spend some more rail fares on having them all changed to a different brand again. Great.

It's interesting that falling passenger numbers are behind their problems, despite the claim that the new ticket barriers would lead to a "substantial uplift in revenue," where they have already been installed. Unfortunately it appears that the complete disregard for customer service has finally come home to roost.

However, National Express still have another six months to run the franchise, so it isn't clear what this means for the ticket barriers at York. They can hardly carry on hiding behind the argument that it is a "franchise commitment," after defaulting on a couple of slightly more major franchise commitments. Watch this space for further information.

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