Published: 27th April 2014
A £20m investment programme has been announced as the Greater Anglia Franchise run by Abellio has been extended by the The Department for Transport (DfT).
Train provider Abellio, the Dutch Railways owned company started operating the Greater Anglia franchise in February 2012 which was their first 100% run franchise. They have been and remain partners in a few other franchises including Northern Rail, a joint venture with Serco.
The DfT announced the latest award in their policy of extending franchises to existing operators and Abellio will continue to operate Greater Anglia services from London‘s Liverpool Street and across eastern England for 27 months until October 16 2016.
The DfT says it will offer the francise on a long-term basis sometime next year, with the election in the background so politics is bound to play a part in this.
The deal the DfT says, will see a £20m improvement programme for passengers over the extension period including refreshed rolling stock on the flagship London to Norwich route. These eservices are Class 90 electric hauled using Mark 3 carriages which are already being overhauled at Wolverton Works so this news is not new! Work being carried out includes power points, new carpets and seat covers, better lighting, upgraded toilets and interior/exterior re-painting.
There will also be more local services on the Greater Anglia network with Stansted Airport doubling its off-peak trains from Cambridge. The DfT says that the investment will build on the progress made since Abellio started running the franchise including improved punctuality, re-painting of stations and the refurbishment of some diesel trains. In a partnership with Network Rail, there will be a reduction in disruptive weekend engineering work.
Abellio UK’s Managing Director Dominic Booth said: “Abellio will now work hard with the team at Abellio Greater Anglia to roll out the improvements quickly and efficiently. The extension also sets the course for future development. We look forward, therefore, to starting a dialogue with stakeholders soon about the requirements for the long term franchise and the investments required to create a rail service that will unlock and support the long term economic development of this important part of the country.”
Abellio Greater Anglia’s new Managing Director, Jamie Burles, added: I am delighted that we have agreed a very positive new contract with the Department for Transport, which will deliver real improvements for customers across our franchise network. We have taken a deliberately customer and community-focused approach to the development of this new deal, ensuring that there are tangible benefits for passengers and stakeholders.
Several rural routes will see their Sunday services increased with Sheringham, Sudbury and Lowestoft to benefit over the next year. Abellio will offer 1600 additional standard class seats on weekday London to Norwich services by October 2016 and by fitting controlled emission retention toilets allied with a £2 million investment by Network Rail, this will stop waste being flushed onto the tracks.
Abellio will also supply 400 additional cycle spaces at stations with every station offering cycle parking by October 2016. The Community Rail Partnerships will see an increase of 20% in their funding and station upgrades at Bishops Stortford, Cambridge and Chelmsford completed.
There will be accessibility improvements to the 12 Class 321s used by Abellio ‘as a precursor‘to further rolling stock improvements which will form part of the next long term franchise agreement in partnership with Eversholt Leasing who own the trains.
Abellio is bidding for the Scotrail franchise and is also in the frame for the Thameslink, Southern & Great Northern and Essex Thameside franchises.
Two Class 319 electric units, currently being used on Thameslink services, will be transferred to Northern Rail to run on the newly electrified route between Liverpool and Manchester Airport via Newton-le-Willows from December. These reliable trains were built by British Rail in the late 1980s.
A year later, Northern will have another 10 of these trains offering up to 3,000 extra seats during peak travel periods but it is hoped that more of these trains will become available for the May 2015 timetable change. The DfT says that “the trains to enter service with Northern will be lightly refurbished before beginning passenger duties” These are likely to receive attention at Wolverton Works.
The Class 319s will be made possible after delivery of the newly Bombardier built Class 375 Electrostar trains which will enter service on Thameslink routes closely followed by the brand new Siemens Desiro City trains.
The new electric service will allow diesel trains to be used on other services serving Bolton and later they will operate Manchester to Burnley services via the newly reopened Todmorden Curve.
TransPennine Express (TPE) has taken delivery of a fleet of ten 110mph Class 350 Siemens electric units costing £60 million leased from Angel Trains. TPE has now also completed sufficient training to operate a new electric service between Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow using these trains, although only one carries the TPE livery. The others carry a neutral grey covering.
These trains offer increased luggage space and extra seats on this key West Coast route and when the full service runs, will bring 15 trains a day on the route when the full service commences on May 14.