Bidders for the next franchise – which includes the notorious Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street route – will be required to:
- Introduce 180 additional weekly services, running on Mondays to Sundays, to stations including Southend, Cambridge, Norwich, Stansted Airport and London Liverpool Street;
- Dramatically improve the quality of trains running on East Anglia’s network, providing a modern service with state-of-the-art trains - extra points will be awarded to bidders who include plans to trial new technologies in rolling stock;
- Bring in free Wi-Fi for all passengers across the network;
- Meet challenging targets to reduce crowding on the busiest services;
- End the practice of flushing toilets on the tracks.
In addition, for the first time in a franchise, the government will directly set challenging customer service targets for the operator and will monitor progress through independent ‘mystery shopper’ exercises and passenger surveys, with the operator expected to show clear year-on-year improvements. A financial penalty will be imposed if targets are not met. Until now, it had been up to the East Anglia operator to set its own targets for customer service and to report back to government.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “For too long, passengers in East Anglia have not had the high-quality rail services that they deserve. Our ambitious requirements will change that by making journeys significantly better than they are now. These plans will also ensure that East Anglia finally has a rail network that supports its growing economy.
“We have set out what we want to see bidders deliver as a minimum, but we are looking for bids that exceed our expectations wherever possible. It is now for the industry to step up to the challenge and tell us how they will make this happen.
“Bidders will also be required to provide plans to end the practice of flushing waste onto the tracks by fitting controlled emission toilets to all trains. They will also be expected to invest heavily in improving stations, as well as creating a £9.5 million ‘Customer and Communities Improvement Fund’ to benefit passengers and the local community.”
Three train operators have been shortlisted to compete to take over the franchise:
- A joint venture between Abellio and Stagecoach
- First Group
- National Express
The government expects to announce the successful bidder in summer next year, with the new nine-year franchise due to start from October 2016.