Rail franchises operators & contracts


New trains as Abellio retains East Anglia franchise

Abellio East Anglia has retained the East Anglia franchise which will oversee a £1.4bn investment to local rail services, including a new fleet of Bombardier and Stadler trains.

The incumbent operator beat off competition from First Group and National Express to take charge of the new franchise, which runs from October 2016 to 2025.

As part of the new deal, Abellio will invest almost £1bn for 660 new Aventra electric multiple-unit cars from Bombardier to be built at its Derby plant, while Stadler will provide 383 Flirt electro-diesel multiple-unit cars. The new trains will be delivered between January 2019 and September 2020. In the meantime, there will be a refurbishment of 'many' existing vehicles ahead of the new fleet’s arrival.

Additionally, free wi-fi will be available for all passengers on trains and at stations, and a host of new ticketing initiatives, starting in October 2017, will be introduced, including new offers for part-time users and those who don’t travel every day.

Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, said: “This is great news not only for Abellio but for the whole of East Anglia. We are pleased to become preferred bidder to deliver a transformation in rail services across the region.

“It will enable us to build on the successes of the two short East Anglian franchises we have run since 2012, and we commend the DfT in running a transparent and rigorous procurement process.

Dutch-run Abellio had originally bid for the new franchise as part of a joint venture with Stagecoach but the two companies failed to agree terms on a joint bid. As part of the new contract it was confirmed that at least four 90-minute services (two in each direction) between London and Norwich each weekday and two 60-minute services per day between London and Ipswich.

Chris Grayling, the recently appointed transport secretary, said: “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era. By awarding this franchise to Abellio East Anglia we will improve journeys for people in East Anglia.

“Abellio’s decision will ensure our train building industry in Derby remains strong.”


Des McKeon, UK commercial director at Bombardier Transportation, said: “We’re delighted to be chosen, pending final contract signing, as the preferred supplier for new trains for the East Anglia franchise. We look forward to working with our customer the Abellio UK, to support them in transforming rail services throughout the region and delivering an enhanced customer experience through the provision of new trains.

It’s a great endorsement of Bombardier’s next-generation Aventra train family, which offers maximum flexibility, to serve many different market requirements from metro to intercity.”

By 2021, there will be more than 32,000 more seats on services arriving at London Liverpool Street in the morning peak, while the new franchise will introduce 1,144 additional weekday services – an increase of 13% – to stations including Cambridge, Norwich, Stansted Airport, Lowestoft, Southend and London Liverpool Street. 

FirstGroup said it was disappointed not to have been awarded the East Anglia rail franchise after submitting a compelling, deliverable, and value for money bid.

“We continue to be disciplined in our approach to bidding for UK rail contracts and will seek feedback from the DfT to help shape our approach to future competitions,” said a spokesperson. 

National Express also said it would be seeking feedback from the DfT. 


David Faircloth   10/08/2016 at 21:27

Can someone please explain where the claim that Stadler will supply 383 bi-mode vehicles comes from? It isn't on the press releases I've found from the DfT or Abellio, and here is nothing about it on the Stadler website. Is it supposition based on "leaked" information, or is it fact?

Andrew Gwilt   10/08/2016 at 21:35

383 Bi-Mode vehicles that could be used on Liverpool St-Lowestoft, Liverpool St-Felixstowe, Liverpool St-Norwich via Cambridge/Ely and 660 Electric only vehicles (EMU's) that will replace the Class 321's and Class 317's EMU's used on the West Anglia and Great Eastern routes and new Intercity rolling stock vehicles to be used on Liverpool St-Norwich Intercity route replacing the Class 90 Mk3 rolling stocks. Plus Class 230's DEMU's could be used on some lines such as the Marks Tey-Sudbury line as well on the Ipswich-Felixstowe, Ipswich-Lowestoft, Norwich-Sheringham/Cromer, Norwich-Great Yarmouth, Norwich-Lowestoft, Ipswich-Peterborough, Ipswich-Cambridge, Norwich-Peterborough and Norwich-Cambridge lines to replace the Class 153's and Class 156's DMU's.

Richardw   11/08/2016 at 09:37

There is a proposed breakdown of fleet structure on http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/passenger/single-view/view/stadler-and-bombardier-to-supply-trains-for-abellio-east-anglia-franchise; this details the number of electro-diesels ordered. Much to AndrewG disappointment, there will be no 230's as Abellio seek whole fleet replacement.

John Grant   11/08/2016 at 10:37

"Controlled emission toilets on all trains" -- presumably the ones without toilets have been transferred to London Overground.

David Faircloth   11/08/2016 at 11:45

I note the inclusion of PLANNED on the Railway Gazette document. As all involved parties are currently silent regarding the involvement of Stadler, could it be that, as a consequence of the dramatic fall in the value of Sterling since the vote for Brexit, plans have changed and it is too early to confirm that procurement of trains from Stadler will still go ahead? The Flirts look interesting vehicles; as they are articulated, I wonder if the new Manningtree facility is being built specifically to maintain them? An if it is, what will be the role of Crown Point?

Andrew Gwilt   11/08/2016 at 22:37

I'm not disappointed anyway Richardw. I like what Abellio are to spend £1bn on improving services and to bring out brand new trains in years to come.

Jerry Alderson   12/08/2016 at 17:55

Interesting that free Wi-Fi on all trains is mentioned but no reference to power-points (especially USB ones). Passenger groups, Railfuture in particular, consider power-points to be potentially more important than Wi-Fi especially on longer journeys since most news apps cache stories. Not everyone wants to carry around a charged booster battery. It's a pity that Rail Technology Magazine has not added its own analysis to the press release. It's not rocket science. For example, the minimum train length will be three cars - so Felixstowe goes from a single Class 153 to a three-car train. Presumably it will be one of the last lines to see new rolling stock, which will clearly be prioritised on getting expensive trains off-lease. How many stations on the network will have platform extensions? SDO solves the safety issue but not trains blocking level crossings, for instance. No comment on the maintenance advantages of only having two types of train for the entire franchise? It certainly reduces costs. e.g less staff training, fewer spares to hold, same equipment to service all trains and so on. How about the lack of new services? All of the branch lines are hourly and it seems will stay that way. In many cases infrastructure improvements (e.g. passing loops) would be needed to go half hourly.

David Faircloth   12/08/2016 at 21:07

Jerry Alderson, please don't forget that the Flirts are artics and each car will therefore be shorter than the 23m of all of Anglia's current diesel fleet; moreover, they seem to manage at Sheringham OK with three-car class 170s - internal displays state "Front 2 coaches only" - which is very confusing as the front is the back between Norwich and Cromer! There are also some enhancements, if you look at the DfT's website; there are more trains between Norwich and Great Yarmouth and the frequency between Ipswich and Peterborough is doubled (with many extended to/from Colchester), and most Norwich - Cambridge trains will extend to Stansted Airport - will these run as electrics south of Ely?

Jak Jaye   13/08/2016 at 09:10

Can someone please explain why the DFt go to all the expense to put out a tender for this franchise only to award it to the same useless TOC? and has anyone noticed we only get to read about the massive improvements for the future,nothing at all about the dismal service and even worse customer information of now! pity the poor 'Angria' punters in the next 4 years. And i note not mention of what or when will new trains for the LST-Norwich route be,whtas wrong with the current 90.DVT/Mk3 combo? if any change all thay have to do is take the redundant Class 91 s off the ECML

Andrew Gwilt   13/08/2016 at 17:59

New railway stations are to be built and opened as Abellio are planning to build few new railway stations such as Cambridge South that will serve Addenbrookes Hospital to the south of Cambridge, Beaulieu in Chelmsford which is to be opened in 2021 that is part of the Beaulieu Park housing development and a proposed new Clacton North railway station to be built and opened in the 2020's as it will serve Clacton Common Outlet Village just like Braintree Freeport has its own railway station to serve the Outlet Shopping Village which is on the Braintree Line that opened in 1999.

Add your comment

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Major station improvements and electric vehicle charging hubs

09/09/2020Major station improvements and electric vehicle charging hubs

Following the announcement of Govia Thameslink Railway’s (GTR) programme to develop numerous stations, today (9 Sept) on World Electric Veh... more >
Contract awarded by Network Rail to strengthen bridges

09/09/2020Contract awarded by Network Rail to strengthen bridges

Three contracts have been awarded by Network Rail to carry out strengthening work to three railway bridges across the Wessex route in the South o... more >
New electric train fleet revealed for Birmingham’s Cross-City Line

09/09/2020New electric train fleet revealed for Birmingham’s Cross-City Line

The electric train fleet set to transform travel on Birmingham’s Cross-City Line has been revealed to rail passengers in the West Midlands.... more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s network of independent repair facilities across the UK and further afield in its global network. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >