The procurement competition has been live since the issue of the procurement documentation on 19 February, and applications are due on 15 April. An invitation to tender will be issued in August, with tender returns due in December 2015. Any delays in the process will result in a delay to the provision of any new rolling stock or services on the line.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great many of my constituents expect that the successful bidder will be required, or at least incentivised, to bring in new rolling stock on the Great Eastern and West Anglia lines to replace the type 317 and 321 trains, which by now are old, uncomfortable, unreliable and inefficient?
We expect to ask bidders to provide a rolling stock strategy that meets the needs of all passengers in East Anglia, while providing a cost-effective solution. They will be in no doubt of the desire of all passengers using that route for substantially new rolling stock, and the rolling stock that my right hon. Friend rightly describes should be taken out of service in due course.
May I stress to my right hon. Friend that if there is no new rolling stock with the award of the franchise, there will be considerable disappointment among commuters and other users, and it will totally undermine all Network Rail’s improvements to the infrastructure? Current rolling stock on the commuter lines is so outdated that it has problems with acceleration and braking.
Commuters from Colchester pay some of the highest fares in the country, and successive Governments have failed significantly to improve the railway infrastructure. Does the Secretary of State agree that without implementation of the East Anglia rail manifesto, whoever wins the Greater Anglia rail franchise will find difficulty in improving the service between Colchester and London?
We have just seen the launch of the new east coast main line franchise. It is committed to reducing the cost of rail tickets, and I hope that anyone who competes for the East Anglia franchise will come forward with new ideas that will not only increase the capacity on that line and improve rolling stock, but look at the cost of tickets.