East Midlands Trains passengers promised 'more seats, services and state-of-the-art trains' by new operator
Passengers on East Midlands Trains have been promised "more seats, services and state-of-the-art trains" by new operator Abellio, who will take over the contract later this year.
The firm been announced as the successful bidder to operate the East Midlands Railway franchise, responsible for delivering new trains, smart ticketing and more frequent services for passengers, as the contract goes up for tender in August.
Abellio 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, a new express service from Corby through Luton into London, the introduction of improved delay repay compensation and flexipass tickets to provide better value fares.
The East Midlands Railway will also be at the forefront of the government’s commitment to deliver a cleaner, greener rail network.
Abellio will trial hydrogen fuel cell trains on the Midland Main Line and will run zero-carbon pilots at six stations along the route, and oversee the introduction of more flexible and convenient smart ticketing options, free wifi and high quality mobile connectivity on board services, improved delay repay compensation for all passengers, a stations improvement fund of £16.8million, including £6.9million for accessibility improvements, £9.4million of investment to deliver commercial and customer service improvements at stations, 916 extra car park spaces and 1,050 cycle spaces, and a ticket buying facilities in place at all stations.
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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 £600 million in improvements to trains and stations, maximising the effect of the government’s £1.5 billion 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."
Abellio's appointment comes as current operator Stagecoach, which holds the contract for East Midlands Trains, was informed that it has been disqualified from putting forward another bid.
Stagecoach had put forward a bid to continue running the train line, however the Department for Transport has informed the firm that it is being disqualified for submitting "non-compliant bids" in relation to pensions.
The firm was also disqualified from bidding for South Eastern and the West Coast Partnership, for the same reasons.
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach group chief executive, said: "We are extremely concerned at both the DfT's decision and its timing. The Department has had full knowledge of these bids for a lengthy period and we are seeking an urgent meeting to discuss our significant concerns.
"We have drawn on more than two decades of rail experience and worked in partnership with local stakeholders to develop high quality proposals to improve each of these rail networks.
"We bid consistent with industry guidance issued by the Rail Delivery Group and shared with the DfT. Without ongoing Government support for the long-term funding of railway pensions, The Pensions Regulator has indicated that an additional £5billion to £6billion would be needed to plug the gap in train company pensions.
"In contrast, the rail industry proposed solution would have delivered an additional £500million to £600million into the scheme.
"This would have provided better stability and security for members and much better value for taxpayers.
"We are shocked that the Government has rejected this for a higher risk approach. We would urge that a full independent value for money review is undertaken into this issue without delay.
"Over more than 20 years, we have delivered industry-leading performance, record passenger growth, excellent industrial relations, and the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the sector.
"We will continue to focus on delivering high quality services for our customers at our existing rail businesses."