Fares, rail policy and DfT news

01.07.06

Three new rail franchises proposed

Source: Rail Technology Magazine June/July 2006

The Department of Transport has launched consultations on key specifications regarding three new rail franchises.

The consultations will seek views on proposals for the minimum levels of service that future operators of the East Midlands, West Midlands and New Cross Country franchises must deliver.

Proposals for the new franchises, which will start operating on November 11, 2007, will attempt to address crowding, and the possible operation of additional trains in each area.

As a result of the consultations, the new operators will run an additional 40 daily services on the new West Midlands franchise and around 20 extra daily services on its East Midlands counterpart. New Cross Country services will be extended to additional stations, including Nottingham, Leicester, Peterborough and Stansted Airport.

Increasing capacity

Bidders will be required to support further growth by increasing capacity, and will be expected to explore extra services and operate longer trains on the busiest routes. The new franchise contracts will set targets for year-on-year improvement.

In addition, the contracts will offer vast possibilities to the successful bidders; indeed, the modernisation of the West Coast Main Line will allow more and faster journeys on the New Cross Country and West Midlands franchises. Both the East and West Midlands regional franchises will combine local services, provided by Central trains, with existing franchise services, supplied by Midland Mainline and Silverlink County respectively. Capacity is set to increase dramatically as a result; indeed, the East Midlands franchise will operate up to 5% more trains than today.

The consultation proposes further improvements, including services for the new East Midlands Parkway station, which is anticipated to open in December 2008. Extra capacity to meet anticipated growth in passenger demand, including a new outer suburban service between Kettering and London, has also been proposed.

Bidders will be required to factor in a proposed new station at Corby, as an incremental option to provide the town with an hourly direct service to London, of which the total journey time is likely to be an hour and a quarter. A new through service between Nottingham and Leeds, which will be operated by either Northern Rail or the East Midlands franchise, is also planned. The future operator will be required to build on recent performance improvements, and ensure more stations achieve Secure Station Status.

Demands

The consultation proposes around 40 extra services per day, building on the extra capacity provided by the £7.6 billion recently invested in the West Coast Main Line. Proposed improvements include an additional hourly service between Manchester and Birmingham, more frequent services between Birmingham and Northampton and between Euston, Northampton, Tamworth and Crewe.

The future operator of the franchise will be obliged to consider the introduction of more flexible and value-added tickets to encourage demand, and successful bidders will be required to ensure that the busiest stations achieve Secure Station Status. Recent improvements in performance will be consolidated and improved.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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