With the promise of brand-new trains, an entire intercity fleet replaced with more reliable trains and an 80% increase in the number of morning peak seats into Nottingham, Lincoln and St Pancras, Abellio has landed the contract to run services on the East Midlands Railway until 2027.
The Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision to choose Abellio has also been helped by the company pledging to trial hydrogen fuel cell trains on the Midland Main Line and run zero-carbon pilots at six stations along the route.
Passengers are also set to 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 franchise has been operated by Stagecoach Group under the East Midlands Trains brand since 2007. Stagecoach, Abellio and Arriva were shortlisted to tender for the next contract.
Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, said the company will invest £600m in improvements to trains and stations and this maximising the effect of the government’s £1.5bn upgrade of the Midland Main Line.
Booth added: “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. 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.”
With the contract due to begin in August 2019, Abellio will also 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 £16.8 million, including £6.9 million for accessibility improvements
- £9.4 million of investment to deliver commercial and customer service improvements at stations
- 916 extra car park spaces and 1,050 cycle spaces
- Ticket buying facilities in place at all stations
Transport secretary Chris Grayling added: “Improving the experience for passengers is at the heart of this new franchise. Abellio will deliver state-of-the-art new trains, upgraded ticketing systems and improvements to stations. Through zero-carbon pilot schemes, trialing hydrogen fuel cell trains and delivering more seats on modern, spacious trains, the new franchise will also play a major role in building a railway fit for the future.”
Commenting on the announcement, Midlands Connect chairman Sir John Peace said it was extremely encouraging to see investment in the region’s railways starting to match that demand.
He added: “The 2019-2027 franchise period provides certainty during a momentous time for the Midlands rail network, and regional bodies have an important role in maximising the benefits for passengers and businesses. We are looking forward to working closely with Abellio as we develop our transformational Midlands Rail Hub plans to introduce up to 24 new train services every hour across the East and West Midlands and prepare to integrate these upgrades with vital new High Speed Two services.”