Abellio East Anglia won the contract despite rival bids from National Express and First Group, and despite long-term concerns from rail users about poor performance.
Announcing the deal today, the government said that Abellio would invest £1.4bn to provide a fully modernised rail service with British-built carriages providing faster trains, more seats, free Wi-Fi for all users and tough new performance targets.
For the Southend to Liverpool Street line, Abellio has promised the following improvements:
- New trains with free Wi-Fi from February 2019;
- 4 trains per hour between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria (currently 3 trains per hour) and more frequent in peak times;
- 2 new fast peak journeys in each direction between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria;
- earlier first and later late service between Liverpool Street and Southend Airport;
- an average 10% faster journey time when new trains are rolled out;
- a customer service regime that encourages the franchisee to be more agile and innovative in the way in which they strive for operating and passenger excellence.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era. By awarding this franchise to Abellio East Anglia we will improve journeys for people in East Anglia.
“Abellio’s decision will ensure our train building industry in Derby remains strong. This is part of our plan to make an economy that works for everyone – not just the privileged few – by ensuring prosperity is spread throughout the country.”
Dominic Booth, Managing Director of Abellio UK, said: “This is great news not only for Abellio but for the whole of East Anglia. We are pleased to become preferred bidder to deliver a transformation in rail services across the region.
It will enable us to build on the successes of the 2 short East Anglian franchises we have run since 2012, and we commend the DfT in running a transparent and rigorous procurement process.
Our plans will greatly improve our customers’ experience with faster and more reliable journeys on new trains with higher frequencies and reduced journey times, to support the socio-economic well-being of East Anglia, one of the country’s most successful and fastest growing areas.
The new franchise will run from October 2016 until 2025.