Published: 18th September 2015
The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced the award of a new rail franchise to incumbent operator Stagecoach East Midlands Trains (EMT) to run from next month for 2 years and 5 months to March 2018 plus an optional extension period of up to a year to be ‘called’ at the DfT’s sole discretion.
EMT have operated the franchise since November 2007 and the new award was announced with the expectation of a £13 million investment package for journey improvements. EMT was awarded Passenger Operator of the Year in 2014, on their network covering the routes between London St. Pancras via Bedford to Leicester, the East Midlands, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire and South Yorkshire.
Improved passenger information
More ticket machines
A new mobile app, that will provide up to the minute information as well as allowing tickets to be purchased
Cleaner trains and stations
An extended on-train catering service
Passengers on the core Midland Main Line route serving St. Pancras will also benefit from improved Wi-Fi up to 4G standard introduced over the next three years.
EMT has achieved a good punctuality record plus associated passenger satisfaction over the last eight years and this new award will bring a minimum of the same train services as today plus 22 additional trains between Newark and Nottingham. There will also be improvements to the Nottingham to Lincoln service with reduced journey times and more services on Saturdays extending the half-hourly service from weekdays.
“The deal between the DfT and Stagecoach is intended to ensure the franchise is in the best position for the full franchise competition in 2018” said the DfT.
This will include doubling the track between Kettering and Corby. Catering on trains will be extended to services between Nottingham and Peterborough.
The new franchise will freeze all Anytime fares to London, with ticket prices remaining at the same level as now until 2017 - this is in addition to the government’s commitment to cap all other regulated rail fares at RPI inflation for the next 5 years.
But of course with inflation at historically low levels near zero, is this a PR headline or a real benefit? What will help is the promised improved online compensation system for passengers who are delayed.
Passengers will also benefit with a ticket sale offering 250,000 discounted tickets and from cleaner stations and a new “Cafe en route” to provide an enhanced on board service. Fifteen new automatic ticket machines installed across the network and better customer information with a new mobile app which will also allow easier ticket purchases to be made.
More information screens will also be installed at key stations including St Pancras, Leicester, Derby and Sheffield.
A million pounds will be invested in improving accessibility at stations with 29 new accessible help points at unstaffed stations, linked to a 24-hour customer contact centre provided. Also to be welcomed is a better passenger assistance scheme so that customers requiring assistance only need to book 12 hours in advance, rather than 24 hours as present.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: This is a great deal for East Midlands Trains customers, and will mean significantly better journeys for passengers travelling around the region.
But there was no mention of the ‘paused’ electrification scheme!
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group Chief Executive, said: This is a significant package of investment for customers travelling on East Midlands Trains, Britain’s most punctual long-distance train operator. It will build on what our team has achieved over the past 8 years and deliver further valuable improvements for the millions of passengers and many communities who rely on the East Midlands Trains network.
Britain’s railway is part of the fabric of our communities - that is why our plans include more opportunities for graduates and young people, new links with schools, greater investment in community rail, and improved training to help our employees deliver a first class service to customers.
The new East Midlands Trains franchise will also deliver a multi-million-pound return to the taxpayer to help fund the government’s ongoing investment programme for the UK rail network”.
EMTs’ parent company Stagecoach Group will pay the government £150 million to run the franchise from October 2015 to March 2018. Around 26 million journeys are made on East Midlands Trains services every year.
Local communities will gain from the new deal, which will see an extra £250,000 invested in community rail, the introduction of a new schools education programme and continued investment in apprenticeships and graduate schemes.