Challenge to East Anglia rail franchise specification dismissed

21 Dec 2015

The High Court has today dismissed Enfield Council’s judicial review of the Department for Transport’s minimum service specification for the ongoing East Anglia rail franchise competition.

The East Anglia franchise serves 131 train stations, extending to Peterborough, Southend, Felixstowe and Cambridge, and includes a significant part of London.  A competition is underway to select the train operating company that will take over the operation of the rail services when the current franchise comes to an end in October 2016.

In September 2015 the Department for Transport issued to intending bidders for the franchise an Invitation To Tender (ITT), to which was attached a Train Service Requirement document setting out the minimum services to be provided at each station.  Enfield Council issued a judicial review claim challenging the ITT because, contrary to the Council’s expectation, the Train Service Requirement did not specify a service of 4 trains per hour throughout the day for Angel Road train station.  Instead, the Train Service Requirement specified a service for Angel Road station reaching 4 trains per hour only during the evening peak hours, meaning that the station is likely to be served by fewer trains at other times of the day.

The Council’s challenge alleged that the ‘failure’ to specify a service of 4 trains per hour throughout the day was unlawful because it breached the Council’s legitimate expectations arising from certain assurances given by Department for Transport officials.  The Council also alleged that the Department for Transport was unreasonable in basing its service specification on economic modelling that took account only of transport-related costs and benefits, and therefore did not give any weight to the risk to the viability of a new housing development project (known as the ‘Meridian Water’ scheme) in the Angel Road area in circumstances where a 4 trains per hour service was not provided.  The Council also argued that, by not taking account of that risk to a development that could make available a significant number of new ‘affordable homes’ in London, the Department for Transport had breached its duties under the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012.

Dismissing the challenge in full, Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing held that the Council did not have a legitimate expectation for a 4 trains per hour service; and, further, the Department for Transport had been entitled to rely on economic modelling focussed on transport-related costs and benefits, and therefore to leave out of account the risk to the Council’s Meridian Water development scheme.  Such an approach was not contrary to the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012.

Monckton barrister Alan Bates appeared on behalf of the Department for Transport.