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Campaigners call for ‘right decision’ on delayed East Anglia award

The government must make the “right decision” when awarding the now delayed East Anglia franchise, the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce has said.

A decision to award the franchise was meant to be made in June, but following the political upheaval after the EU referendum vote and the changing of the political guard at the DfT a decision has yet to be made.

A DfT spokesperson told RTM that the department is “still considering the bids”, but that the new franchise should still be starting in October.

Earlier this month, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said that following the Brexit vote the new operator of East Anglia, which could be FirstGroup, National Express or the incumbent Abellio (originally this had been a joint venture bid with Stagecoach), may receive less money following the economic uncertainty after the vote to leave.

Mark Pendlington, joint chair of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce, which has campaigned for infrastructure improvements to increase speed and capacity in the route since 2012, said that he was “reassured this has been a rigorous selection process”.

“The Taskforce met with the bidders and they all had top quality plans to make our railway great again and we know they would have put in compelling bids to the government,” he said.

“The most important thing now is that the right decision is taken, and that whoever the successful bidder is, they deliver on faster trains to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich and the new state-of-the-art rolling stock that businesses and passengers in the East deserve.”

Last year, in the invitation to tender (ITT) documents, it was revealed that the operator of the next nine-year East Anglia franchise will have to introduce at least two 90-minute services in each direction running between Norwich and London every weekday, alongside a series of mandatory upgrades.

The documents specify that, because rolling stock currently running on the route is “too old and unreliable”, the ITT will particularly focus on the quality of new trains.

Improved rolling stock must also be of a high quality and fit for purpose, such as by providing wi-fi and controlled emission toilets, as well as tackle crowding levels.

Prior to resigning as rail minister earlier this month over the failure at Southern, Claire Perry said: “The successful bidder will help us realise our ambitious plans for East Anglia’s rail network. We have been clear that as a minimum they must provide a modern service with state of the art trains and also introduce at least two 90-minute services each way between London and Norwich. In addition they must invest heavily in improving stations.

“We advised an anticipated date for the award and continue to consider the bids. We will announce the new operator in due course.”

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Boris   29/07/2016 at 10:21

Andrew. See what your vote has caused. The Greater Anglia franchise is losing out on money for new trains.

Keith   29/07/2016 at 10:48

Brexit, the gift that keeps on giving. Any industrial, commercial enterprised mismanaged or delayed can now be blamed on "the uncertainty created by Brexit". Similarly a golden opportunity to reduce funding, delay or cancel contract award, reduce contract values etc. Ultimately the lie becomes a fact as the lame and incapable bring the country slowly to a halt.

Andrew G   29/07/2016 at 13:25

I do think that Abellio would extend the contract to maintain the GA franchise but I'm hopeful that National Express or First Group are more likely to win and to take over from what Abellio has achieved and not achieved since running the franchise. NX could become NXEA once again or to keep the "Greater Anglia" and "Stansted Express" logo brand. First could take over and to become First East Anglia/First West Anglia or First Eastern Trains as First did operate as First Great Eastern which could happen again if First win the franchise.

David   29/07/2016 at 14:51

Andrew, why would you want National Express back? IIRC they did a pretty terrible job last time around.

Tim C   30/07/2016 at 01:26

Boris, those of us in the Franchise area would be far happier with properly upgraded existing main line stock (Mk III's) than brand new plastic Voyager type trains. There is a fantasy approach to a lot of this hyperbole. "Norwich in 90" is easily attainable now, just get rid of the intemediate stops and Freightliners. Unless a swathe of new infrastructure is built (4 tracking etc), what we have is basically the best we can get. As for blaming Brexit, come on people, get a life! That's just served to show what a shambles the whole privatisation process is. Local press said the delays were because "the preferred bidder Abellio, would see its profits reduced because of the weaker pound". All about profits then??

Neil   30/07/2016 at 13:26

Well said Keith - you've hit the nail on the head re Brexit Personally I don't understand why National Express are allowed to bid for franchises. There record is abysmal, NXEA being a case in point. C2C is the exception of course but with new trains, renewed infrastructure and a simple route you'd have to try hard to get that one wrong.

Terry   30/07/2016 at 15:26

Note the new Franchisee will not make any Infrastructure changes as that is Network Rails responsibility .

Andrew G   30/07/2016 at 20:37

National Express did do badly when they took over the GA franchise in 2004 as they were One Railway then National Express East Anglia before Abellio took over in 2012.

David   05/08/2016 at 18:52

My fear is that Greater Anglia will keep it and they won't invest on the Southend to London line, because TFL will own from Shenfield. TFL should take the Whole Southend and Southminister lines and the Franchise winner gets the rest. Or give these 2 lines to C2C. Who ever it is I want to see the end of Toilet waste dumping on the lines.

Andrew Gwilt   07/08/2016 at 11:28

What you said about TfL to take over the Southend Victoria and Southminster lines as part of the Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) is a brilliant idea. Wouldn't mind that if Crossrail does extend to Southminster, Wickford, South Woodham Ferrers, Billericay, Rayleigh, Hockley, Rochford, Prittlewell, Southend Airport (London Southend Airport) and Burnham-on-Crouch as well other stations on the Crouch Valley Line and to have Class 345's being used on those lines. I like the idea of that David. Plus Crossrail could also use the c2c line to Southend Central, Shoeburyness, Grays, Basildon, Laindon and Upminster in the near future.

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