The Department for Transport (DfT) has cancelled a competition to operate South Eastern rail services between London, Kent and parts of East Sussex and has extended the current contract.

Services on the routes are operated by Southeastern, which has been given an extension until April 2020. The company has had the franchise since 2006.

A spokesperson for the DfT said its decision to cancel the bidding process for the South Eastern franchise came after “significant concerns that continuing the competition process would lead to additional costs incurred to the taxpayer, with no certainty that this would deliver envisaged benefits for passengers in a timely fashion”.

He also said extending the current agreement would give the government time to consider and implement the recommendations due to be given as part of the Williams Review, which is due to be published this autumn.

Former British Airways chief Keith Williams, who is heading up the review, has previously said he doesn’t believe the government should be in charge of managing the UK’s railways.

David Brown, CEO of Southeastern’s parent company Go-Ahead, voiced the firm’s disappointment in the decision, commenting: “A lot of hard work was put into a strong bid that would have built upon the achievements of Southeastern in recent years in improving performance and customer satisfaction, delivering more capacity and investment.

“Whilst we’re disappointed that our original bid is not being taken forward, we will engage with the DfT on next steps.”

Southeastern MD David Statham said the company had delivered £80 million of improvements since 2014, with punctuality improving 10 per cent in two years. The firm has also introduced free on-board wifi and has boosted capacity by adding 5,000 seats.

Statham added: “Over this next extension period, our focus remains squarely on our passengers, delivering more improvements and continuing to improve the punctuality and reliability of our services.”

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