September 2 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
An empty phone or laptop battery could become a thing of the past for many rail commuters with transport bosses in talks about putting plug sockets on Norwich to London trains.
Rail minister Stephen Hammond said he was seeking the electricity points as part of “modest improvements” during a mini-franchise agreement to run from July to October 2016.
He also hopes to see an end to raw sewage being discharged onto the tracks, a practice his colleague Baroness Kramer recently described as “utterly disgusting” and “just unacceptable”.
Abellio Greater Anglia described the talks as “positive”, but said that it was also making the case for improvements from other “stakeholders” through the Norwich in Ninety taskforce announced late last year.
MPs campaigning for better rail services and track operator Network Rail both want to the small improvements to be a forerunner to the introduction of new trains after 2016.
Details of what will be asked of the long term operator after 2016 will be informed by the Norwich in Ninety taskforce and Mr Hammond said details would be published in August 2015, with the winning bidder announced in July 2016, before it takes over that October.
He said: “We are in discussions with Abellio Greater Anglia about the direct award which will operate from July this year and we are seeking modest improvements to rolling stock where it provides value for money and is affordable.
“Negotiations are ongoing, however, we hope to improve the Mark III coaches used on the Norwich-London route and this may include the installation of power sockets and modifications to the toilets so that waste does not fall onto the tracks.”
Guy Dangerfield, from Passenger Focus, said: “If both these things, or even one of these things, come to pass, it is obviously a good thing.
But he questioned how much could succeed in the shorter term franchise.
“The long term franchise was expected to start in July, but following the West Coast Mainline franchise debacle, an interim agreement has had to be put in place.
An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman said: “We’re in positive discussions with the DfT regarding the possibility of making improvements to our Mark III rolling stock that operates services on our Norwich to London mainline route.”
Trains operating from Norwich on the rural route network in Norfolk, and including the Norwich to Cambridge service, are already fitted with retention tanks, with the Class 156 trains already going through an extensive £3m refurbishment.
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