Two ‘Norwich in 90’ trains each weekday will be part of new rail deal for East Anglia
Archant Norfolk 2015
Norwich to London in 90 minutes, “state of the art” trains, free internet and extra services will be introduced by the next firm to run East Anglia’s rail services, the Government said today.
Abellio East Anglia Limited (a joint venture between Abellio and Stagecoach)
Abellio is a Dutch-owned company which has been running the line since 2012. Last year it was awarded the ScotRail contract running services north of the border.
Stagecoach Group was originally founded in Scotland in the 1980s, it now has transport contracts across the UK and around the world running buses and train services across mainland Europe and North America.
First East Anglia Limited
FirstGroup runs about a fifth of local bus services out of London and also runs trains in the south-west and the TransPennine Express.
It also has a large student transport arm in North America and runs the iconic Greyhound bus brand across the Atlantic.
National Express East Anglia Trains Limited
National Express ran the East Anglian line until 2012. It runs bus, train and coach services in Europe, North Africa and North America.
The invitation to tender, which would form the basis of the contract, was published today and the Government expects to announce the successful bidder next summer, with the new nine-year franchise due to start from October 2016.
Three bidders are set to battle it out for what is seen as a lucrative deal to run services across a large part of East Anglia.
It comes after the Chancellor promised ahead of the election that the Government would make sure that trains would run between Norwich and London in 90 minutes.
In order to achieve that pledge a raft of engineering work needs to be carried out by Network Rail and new trains are needed on the line over the coming years.
The battle to win the bid is between Dutch-owned Abellio and Stagecoach, which have teamed up to put in a joint bid, a previous operator National Express and FirstGroup.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said today that bidders for the next franchise would be required to introduce at least two 90-minute services in each direction running between Norwich and London every weekday.
It added that the next operator would also have to introduce 180 extra weekly services to places including Cambridge, Norwich, Stansted Airport, Southend and London Liverpool Street.
They will also be told to invest in improved carriages providing a “modern service with state of the art trains”.
The DfT said extra points would be awarded to bidders who included plans to trial new technologies in rolling stock.
Trains will have to include free WiFi and they will have targets to reduce crowding on the busiest services.
There will also have to be at least one extra 60-minute service each day in each direction between Ipswich and London.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “For too long, passengers in East Anglia have not had the high-quality rail services that they deserve. Our ambitious requirements will change that by making journeys significantly better than they are now. These plans will also ensure that East Anglia finally has a rail network that supports its growing economy.
“We have set out what we want to see bidders deliver as a minimum, but we are looking for bids that exceed our expectations wherever possible. It is now for the industry to step up to the challenge and tell us how they will make this happen.”
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith and Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, put out a statement after the Government announcement, welcoming the move.
“Thousands of passengers and businesses have got behind our campaign across three counties to get faster, more reliable rail services between Norwich and London,” they said. “The day-to-day and economic benefits of what we have won will be immense for our region and completed in ten years.”
“In the short term, we also welcome the provision of additional fast services from Norwich and Ipswich to London,” they added.
“In the long term, our work continues to make sure the necessary track improvements take place over the next ten years, as planned.”