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Rail Franchises

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 21 January 2010

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis has made the following ministerial statement:

I am today launching public consultations for the new InterCity East Coast, Greater Anglia, and Essex Thameside franchises. The formal accreditation process for bidders for Greater Anglia and Essex Thameside also starts today.

Our overall aim for the new franchises is to continue the existing operations and make improvements based on emerging value for money and affordability requirements.

The InterCity East Coast franchise will build on the new east coast main line timetable that is being introduced in May 2011 to take advantage of planned infrastructure enhancements to enable extra trains to run, to accelerate journey times and to introduce a standard interval clockface timetable. Further major service improvements are proposed from 2016 when super express trains will be introduced, providing more capacity, more frequent trains and shorter journey times. Franchisees will also be asked for proposals to improve the overall passenger experience, including better stations, improved catering and simpler ticketing.

Passengers on the Greater Anglia franchise are set to benefit from longer trains, enhancements at stations, more security and other service improvements. The new franchise operator will have to consider quicker journey times between Norwich and London, improving the performance and reliability of long distance services and introducing minimum catering standards on InterCity trains. They will also set national passenger survey targets for trains, stations and customer service with a requirement to invest more to make improvements in those areas if they fail to meet those targets.

Passengers on the Essex Thameside franchise will benefit from longer trains and better security. The new operator will be expected to provide better service information for passengers and improved facilities at stations, including more secure cycle spaces and additional car parking facilities. They will also be required to monitor service quality and ensure stations and trains are cleaned and maintained to a high standard.

The new Greater Anglia franchise will begin operation on Friday 1 April 2011, Essex Thameside on Sunday 29 May 2011 and InterCity East Coast in autumn 2011. All three franchises are proposed to last for a franchise term of at least 10 years with provisions made to allow the termination of the contracts earlier if the franchise fails to deliver good quality service to passengers. The franchise length may also be extended dependent on proposals to deliver investment and significant passenger benefit. Any such proposals would have to offer good value for money to the taxpayer.

The consultation documents set out the main challenges that the new franchises will face and highlights the key requirements that the Department currently proposes to include within each invitation to tender (ITT). They set out proposals to increase peak capacity and improve security, access to stations and overall service quality.

Responses to the consultations will inform the development of the invitation to tender that bidders for each franchise will be asked to bid against. We expect to publish the ITT for both Greater Anglia and Essex Thameside in summer 2010 and will award these franchises in late 2010 and early 2011. The ITT for InterCity East Coast will be published in autumn 2010. The franchise will be awarded in summer 2011.

Over the coming weeks the Department will be having extensive discussions with local interested stakeholders, via a series of stakeholder meetings.

All three consultations will run until the 19 April 2010. Copies of the consultation documents, as well as the recently published discussion paper on general franchise policy have been placed in the House Library and are available on the Department for Transport website.