Abellio has been confirmed by the Department for Transport as the operator of the new East Anglian rail franchise, which will commence on the 16th October 2016. This concludes the 'standstill' period after the DfT's 10th August announcement naming Abellio as 'Preferred Bidder' for the contract. Abellio operates the current franchise, which trades as Abellio Greater Anglia and connects London, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.
The new nine year franchise will deliver a major package of improvements for rail services in the region, including:
- Replacement of the entire fleet of trains with 1,043 brand new carriages, built by Bombardier in Derby (660 carriages) and Stadler in Switzerland (383 carriages). These will all be in service by the end of 2020.
- Investment of £60 million in stations, including the redevelopment of five stations: Broxbourne, Cambridge, Cheshunt, Harlow and Southend Victoria.
- More services and faster journeys across the network, including two 'Norwich in 90' trains each way per day and average journey times to Ipswich falling from 73 to 64 minutes.
- Better connections, with Lowestoft linked directly to London by four trains each way per day, and Norwich to Cambridge services extended to Stansted Airport every hour.
- Faster services between Cambridge and London.--------------Doubling the Peterborough to Ipswich service to hourly.
- Working with Network Rail to implement specific schemes to drive up performance and reliability throughout the franchise.
- 55% more seats into London in the morning peak period, and 1,144 extra services per week on the network.
- A better ticketing system for customers, including extension of smartcards, the introduction of flexible 'carnet' tickets, lower fares on the Stansted Express and automatic Delay-Repay for seasons and advance purchase ticket holders.
Dominic Booth, Managing Director for Abellio UK said: "This is a very exciting time for the railways across the Greater Anglia region. We are delighted to be able to build on the hard work of all our colleagues at Abellio Greater Anglia over the past four years. This announcement will now enable us to deliver the world-class rail network that the region deserves.
"Our ambitious plans, that include the replacement of the entire Greater Anglia fleet in the largest privately-funded train order in the UK, will give the people of the Greater Anglia region a railway that is unrecognisable from today."
The new franchise will also deliver value for the taxpayer, with a £3.7 billion franchise payment delivered to the government by Abellio over the course of the franchise.
Customers will also see improvements in the first three years of the franchise before the new trains arrive. These include:
- Upgraded trains: in the first year of the franchise 30 4-carriage electric trains will be refurbished to include air conditioning, WiFi and new seats. These will run from Southend, Braintree and Ipswich to London, providing much needed extra capacity. The remainder of the fleet will be refreshed at a cost of £10m, improving the passenger environment and reliability of the trains. 27 of the existing trains will also undergo modifications to become fully accessible to disabled customers.
- More than 70 additional carriages will be introduced in January 2017 to provide more capacity and more seats on West Anglia and Great Eastern Main Line routes.
- All stations will be refreshed or refurbished and receive a deep clean.
- Ticket machines and new digital customer information screens at every station
- Nearly 1800 additional car parking spaces across the network, and 4000 additional cycling spaces.
- All trains which operate out of London Liverpool Street will be fitted with WiFi, and those trains currently with WiFi will have the system upgraded.
- Enhanced support for the region's highly-successful Community Rail Partnerships.
- Investment in our people, with 20 trainees entering the business per year, with 30 apprenticeships by 2019. We will also work with local universities to deliver graduate work experience opportunities within the business.
- £2.75m each year to spend during the franchise on further schemes to enhance the customer experience and improve the communities we serve
- A focus on innovation with a dedicated innovation fund and the establishment of an Innovation Academy.
Jamie Burles, Managing Director of Abellio Greater Anglia, said: "This package of improvements will deliver transformational change across our entire network in a relatively short period of time. We can't buy new trains 'off the shelf', but we are making sure that customers see improvements early in the new franchise.
"We look forward to supporting the economic growth of what is one of the UK's fastest growing regions to deliver a world-class railway service that our customers, our colleagues and our stakeholders can be proud of."
175 years of experience has embedded in Abellio a social duty to passengers which extends beyond the journey on one of our trains, trams or buses. The passenger is at the heart of everything we do. The delivery of safe, reliable and comfortable services is the starting point for every transport provider, but that is not enough for Abellio. Our services must play an integrated role in the socio-economic development of the societies we serve.