THE DEPARTMENT for Transport has exercised its option to extend the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs) at three operators, c2c, South Western Railway and TransPennine Express, as discussions continue over the ending of franchise agreements and a move to National Rail Contracts. FirstGroup, which operates the SWR and TPE franchises, told Modern Railways: ‘DfT has exercised its option to extend the ERMAs for these two TOCs until the end of May, from their previous end date of 1 April. The ability for DfT to extend was mentioned in our previous announcements on ERMAs.’
In early February it was reported DfT was keen to conclude discussions with these three companies, which had been designated ‘Tier One’ franchises in acknowledgement of their status as being in the most difficult financial positions; their futures were expected to have been resolved by 29 January ahead of a move to new National Rail Contracts from 1 April. Industry insiders suggest it is the new NRCs which are now the biggest challenge rather than the franchise termination sums, with FirstGroup confirming: ‘Negotiations are continuing in respect of directly awarded National Rail Contracts, and we are working constructively with DfT to conclude these negotiations’.