Rail campaigners have only three weeks left to give their views on what train services should be offered in the new South Western franchise.

The closing date for consultation on the franchise is 13 January 2006.

Railfuture member John Davison said: "The deadline is fast approaching on this.

"Something that seems to have been forgotten is that the ease of reaching Waterloo for Eurostar has attracted custom and there is nothing in place in the new proposed franchise to address that.

"I travel from Bath by a direct service to Waterloo, sometimes to catch Eurostar, sometimes to get to Clapham Junction and sometimes to avoid the annoyance of travelling of the Underground.

"Currently the Bristol to Waterloo service would be lost. Looking ahead, shouldn't this service be retained and run to the new Eurostar terminus at St Pancras?

"Most members of the public don't like changing trains. They prefer a direct link."

Consultatation on the specification for the South Western franchise was launched by the Department for Transport in November.

It will start in February 2007 and combine two existing franchises, South West Trains and Island Line.

The consultation document specifies that the future operator must sustain and build on recent performance improvements in the franchise area.

The DfT wants the franchise to:

Provide faster and more frequent London Waterloo-Weymouth services

Increase off-peak capacity and journey opportunities in south Hampshire

Introduce ticket gates at Waterloo and other stations

Reduce overcrowding levels

Provide an hourly Waterloo-Salisbury-Exeter service

Consider rail links to Heathrow

Reconnect the Swanage branch

The DfT can't cope with dealing with rail campaigners direct so wants ideas filtered through local councils or the Rail Passenger Council.

The invitation to tender will be issued in March and the successful bidder is expected to be announced in the autumn 2006.

On 20 December, the DfT announced the following were on the shortlist for the South Western franchise:
Arriva, First, Great South Western Railway (a joint venture between GNER and MTR of Hong Kong), National Express and Stagecoach.

On xx December, the Greater Western and Thameslink franchises (from 1 April) were awarded to First Group. The Greater Western franchise includes running a sleeper service from London to Penzance.

The consultation document for the South West franchise is available DfT website

Other documents relating to the franchise are at DfT website

Se also: expansion plans