At the end of 2002, the SRA also amended its franchising policy to introduce, in addition to compliance with the SSP, other performance criteria to improve the overall quality of passenger travel. The lengths of the franchise would be five to eight years, but extensions would be allowed if key performance indicators (KPIs) were met. It has also changed the approach to cost and revenue risks and introduced incentive payments for long-term performance and investments. The changes came into effect after prices already too advanced for the Transpennine and Wales-Borders franchises. The tendering process has also been simplified, so that further details have been announced in advance to speed up the process and make bid evaluation more robust. Using short-term tactical extensions, the SRA plans to get changes in the franchise overhaul and flatten the re-franchise schedule, with the goal of aiming for two or three awards per year.  The system was created as part of the privatization of British Rail, the former public rail operator, and included government-issued franchises for the formation of operating companies (OCDs) as part of a tendering process.  Franchises generally lasted at least seven years and cover a defined geographic area or type of service; Franchises were not granted exclusively and daily competition with other franchises and open access operators was possible, although on a limited number of services.  Over the years, the system has developed and, most importantly, the original 25 franchises have been reduced to 17 through a series of mergers. Two franchises are currently publicly owned under the „operator of last resort” agreement. These rail franchise agreements are published in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Franchise agreements are published by the Secretary of State in accordance with the exceptions authorized by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. National Express won most franchises with five (Gatwick Express, Midland Mainline, North London, Central Trains and ScotRail). Prism Rail followed with four (LTS, Wales-West, Valley Lines and WAGN). Connex, Virgin Rail Group and MTL have won two each, with the franchises they have won being closely linked (South Central and South Eastern for Connex, CrossCountry and West Coast for Virgin and Mersey Electrics and North East for MTL). Stagecoach also won two, although the second was the tiny Island Line, which would eventually merge with its jackpot, South West Trains. Great Western Holdings also won two, on opposite sides of the country – Great Western and North Western; FirstGroup, which had won only one franchise at Great Eastern, was a minority partner at GWH. Their purchase from GWH`s other partners in March 1998 brought their total to three.  Prior to the formal tendering of a given franchise, the DfT publishes a Advance Information Communication (PIN code) in which basic details are provided and initiates a consultation with the relevant transport authorities, the decentralised administrations and the Focus Watchdog transport.