New rail operator will have to replace most of East Anglia's trains

PUBLISHED: 10:32 20 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:22 20 February 2015

Norwich Train Station. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Train Station. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

Most of East Anglia's trains are sub-standard, and the new operator that takes over the franchise next year will have to replace them.

Greater Anglia bid

Abellio Greater Anglia was first awarded the East Anglia rail franchise from February 2012, taking over from National Express which had held it since 2004.

It was originally to run until July 2014, but was extended to October 2016 by the Secretary of State for Transport.

The competition for the next franchise has now begun, and parent company Abellio has confirmed it will be seeking to retain it.

Cameron Jones, public affairs director of Abellio UK, said: “I’m happy to confirm that Abellio will be seeking to make the shortlist for the franchise competition.

“Indeed, the team is excited that the process is now underway.”

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman said: “We welcome the announcement by the Department for Transport which marks the start of the process for the next East Anglia rail franchise due to commence in October 2016.

“In the meantime we are committed to investing over £30m in our current franchise improving customer service and upgrading trains, including our Intercity fleet.”

That’s the blunt message from the government in the prospectus for the East Anglia Rail Franchise, which was unveiled just hours after prime minister David Cameron announced the government’s long term economic plan for East Anglia.

The franchise document published by the Department for Transport says: “The current fleet is generally below the standard expected and this franchise will seek to secure significant investment in the quality, condition, design and reliability of the trains on the Anglia region.”

It does not say that the trains will have to be new – but it does say they will have to achieve the aims of the Great Eastern Rail Campaign of running between London and Norwich in 90 minutes, in Ipswich in 60.

The franchise looks like a prize for any operator – between 2007 and

2013 the number of passengers increased by an average of 3.5% a year.

In her foreword to the prospectus rail minister Claire Perry says: “The East Anglia franchise presents the opportunity to give passengers a great experience of the railway, be that at stations or on trains.”

She adds: “We want an operator that will deliver advanced solutions to provide high quality, stylish, modern rolling stock that is accessible to all the franchise’s passengers.”

However the opposition claimed the absence of any explicit mention of new trains for the region was significant.

Shadow rail minister Lilian Greenwood said: “David Cameron’s claim that he is improving East Anglia’s rail network is a sham.

“Since 2010 investment has been held back by short term contracts on the route and not a penny of new funding has been allocated by

the government for the next parliament.

“Worse still, this announcement sees ministers row back on their previous assurances that there would be new trains for East Anglia.

“Passengers deserve better, but only Labour is committed to reforming the railways and putting passengers first.”

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