New East Midlands rail franchise operator expected to improve services in Lincolnshire

East Midlands Trains will have to step aside having lost the East Midlands rail contract to Abellio. EMN-191004-114438001
East Midlands Trains will have to step aside having lost the East Midlands rail contract to Abellio. EMN-191004-114438001

The government has announced Abellio as the new East Midlands rail franchise operator.

Coun Richard Davies, Executive Member for Highways and Transport, said: “The county council has worked closely with Transport for the East Midlands and other EM local authorities to secure the best deal possible for the East Midlands as a whole.

“There is a lot of good news for the county, and it looks like the new franchise will introduce a lot of the improvements we’ve been calling for.

“For example, the Lincoln to Doncaster services, which also serve Gainsborough and Saxilby, will become hourly. This is something we’ve been particularly pushing for since Doncaster offers a range of good connections across the north of the country.”

Coun Davies went on: “In addition, there is a requirement for the franchise to time the two-hourly Lincoln-Newark North Gate services in between the proposed direct two-hourly Lincoln-London services. That will effectively provide an hourly Lincoln-London service.

“Similarly, there will be an hourly service from Lincoln to Grimsby, which will help alleviate some of the overcrowding currently experienced at Market Rasen.

“There are also improvements planned for services between Lincoln and Peterborough, which will be of particular benefit for not only Sleaford and Spalding, but also the smaller stations on that route, such as Metheringham and Ruskington,” said Coun Davies.

“Another welcome addition is the recognition that the franchise needs to do more for Skegness during the busy summer season and around major events, such as the Lincoln Christmas Market.

“And these are just the improvements that were required by the Department for Transport. We may find that Abellio have gone even further in their bid once the full details are released.

“There has been good growth in rail use across the county in recent years, and it’s important that rail services adapt to meet that increasing demand. Today’s announcement appears to be a step in the right direction.”

Abellio are whole owned by the Dutch state-owned national rail operator and currently operate the East Anglia, ScotRail, West Midlands Rail, London Northwestern and Merseyrail franchises in the UK.

Stagecoach has operated the East Midlands Trains franchise successfully for over 11 years and its extended contract will run until August 18 after it was excluded from bidding by the Department for Transport for non compliant with terms of the new contract offer.

Abellio welcomed today’s (Wednesday) announcement by the Department for Transport that it has been selected as winning bidder to run the next East Midlands rail franchise.

The contract is due to begin on August 18 2019, will run for at least eight years, and will be known as East Midlands Railway (EMR). EMR is a wholly owned subsidiary of Abellio Transport Holdings Ltd.

This news means that Abellio will oversee delivery of improvements for passengers over the coming years, building on the hard work of the existing team. EMR will lead the railway into the next generation of new trains and take full advantage of a £1.5bn Government investment in stations and upgraded tracks that will give passengers more seats, more trains and better stations.

Abellio says its commitment will include: investment of £600m including brand new bi-mode trains; a high-quality, dedicated, electric train service between London and Corby; and the introduction of faster, modern, refurbished trains across the whole network. This investment will also see transformed stations, improved ticketing and accessibility, and enhanced training and benefits for employees.

Dominic Booth, Managing Director of Abellio UK, said: “Abellio is proud to have been selected as the Winning Bidder for the East Midlands franchise. We look forward to this franchise driving economic growth and delivering significant benefits for passengers. Abellio will invest £600m in improvements to trains and stations, maximising the effect of the Government’s £1.5bn upgrade of the Midland Main Line, to make journeys easier, more reliable and comfortable for our passengers. Closer collaboration between East Midlands Railway and Network Rail will ensure that track and train are aligned to deliver vital enhancements to infrastructure and to put the interests of passengers first.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said today (Wednesday): “The franchise is due to start on August 18 2019 and will run for eight years, until August 21, 2027, with an extension of two years callable at my discretion.

“Passengers, local authorities, businesses and other stakeholders across the country contributed to a highly demanding and challenging specification for this new franchise. Bidders were invited to demonstrate how they would meet this specification, and I am very pleased that we have agreed a plan with Abellio East Midlands for them to exceed these expectations.

“Abellio East Midlands will oversee the introduction of brand-new trains, entirely replacing the existing intercity fleet with more reliable and comfortable trains. Passengers will benefit from an 80 per cent increase in the number of morning peak seats into Nottingham, Lincoln and St Pancras. Passengers will also see faster journey times over long-distances, with a new express service from Corby through Luton into London.

“The East Midlands Railway will be at the forefront of the government’s commitment to deliver a cleaner, greener rail network. Abellio East Midlands will trial hydrogen fuel cell trains on the Midland Main Line and will run zero-carbon pilots at six stations along the route.

“The new franchise will also deliver a fairer deal for passengers. Over £17 million will be invested in improving station facilities across the route, including to deliver accessibility improvements. Abellio East Midlands will also deliver an additional 916 extra car park spaces and 1,050 cycle spaces.

“Passengers will benefit from the provision of free wifi throughout the franchise, both on-trains and at stations, and a significant uplift to the current ticketing system, with the introduction of smart, flexible ticketing options, including to provide better value for those who travel regularly but less than five days a week, as well as improved ticket-buying facilities and nine newly staffed stations.

“The new East Midlands Railway franchise will also introduce enhanced delay repay compensation, with passengers able to claim compensation if their train is more than 15 minutes late.

“We look forward to working closely with Abellio East Midlands to ensure they deliver the high-quality services that passengers expect and deserve from the railway and the East Midlands Railway franchise.

“The next East Midlands Railway franchise and the ongoing competitions include significant improvements for passengers and steps to bring track and train closer together. From 2020, we will begin to roll-out further reforms, advised by the Rail Review, across the country. We will be guided by the approaches that deliver benefits to passengers and other rail users soonest. Awarding the new East Midlands Railway franchise is part of that strategy.”