Abellio Greater Anglia to deliver significant upgrades for customers and communities
Abellio Greater Anglia (AGA) is to deliver some significant service improvements across its franchise area as part of a new contract with the Department for Transport (DfT). The agreement will see the train operator continue to operate train services in East Anglia from July 2014 to October 2016. Despite the contract covering only a short franchise period, the company has worked proactively with the DfT to agree a programme of investment and upgrades which focuses on a number of key priorities for customers and stakeholders in the region. Highlights include:
1. A major refresh for the carriages used on the intercity services operating on the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML between Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Chelmsford and London) with power points, new carpets, new seat covers, better lighting, upgraded toilets and an interior and exterior re-paint.
2. The introduction of new off peak Cambridge - Stansted Airport services on Mondays to Fridays from July this year.
3. A programme of Sunday service enhancements on the Norwich to Sheringham, Marks Tey to Sudbury, Ipswich to Lowestoft, Norwich to Lowestoft and GEML routes, to be phased in during 2014 and 2015.
4. Introduction of on-line compensation arrangements for season ticket holders during the franchise period.
5. Provision of over 1600 additional Standard seats on weekdays on the intercity services on the GEML, by converting seven catering vehicles to offer 44 Standard seats instead of 24 First Class seats by October 2016.
6. Installation of over 400 additional cycle parking spaces at AGA stations, including schemes to ensure that all stations in the AGA franchise at October 2016 will have some cycle parking facilities and secure cycle parking facilities are installed at an additional 8 stations.
7. A 20% increase in funding for Community Rail Partnerships across the AGA network.
8. Fitting of controlled emission toilets (CET) to all intercity carriages and the start of a programme to fit CET to Class 321 trains, allied with a £2 million investment by Network Rail at train maintenance depots at Orient Way (East London), Southend and Norwich, to stop waste being flushed onto the tracks and enable the toilets to be emptied in proper facilities at dedicated locations with appropriate equipment.
9. A commitment to continue to work with the DfT and other stakeholders as part of the Norwich in 90 Taskforce to develop plans to improve journey times and services on the GEML.
10. Further initiatives to improve train service performance and reliability, including rolling stock modifications and infrastructure projects.
11. Introduction of an enhanced "Heavy Clean" programme for trains and stations.
12. Improved passenger accessibility arrangements to be installed on twelve Class 321 trains used on commuter services from Essex and South Suffolk, as a precursor to further rolling stock improvements which would be agreed as part of the next Greater Anglia franchise. Abellio Greater Anglia will also work with Eversholt Leasing to evaluate options for starting refurbishment of a small number of Class 321 trains before the end of the Direct Award period in October 2016.
13. Securing feedback from customers on pilot refurbished Class 317 and 321 commuter trains to inform and shape rolling stock upgrade requirements for the next Greater Anglia franchise on both the Great Eastern and West Anglia routes.
14. Completion of station upgrade schemes at Bishops Stortford, Cambridge and Chelmsford.
15. Extension of the company's employee customer service training programme.
In total the programme of upgrades amounts to an investment of over £20 million in service improvements over a 27 month period. The positive package of enhancements builds on progress made by Abellio Greater Anglia since it took on the Greater Anglia franchise in February 2012, including better punctuality (up from 90.9% to 91.7%), re-painting of stations, refurbishment of some diesel trains, easier ticket purchase (with more ticket vending machines and introduction of mobile phone and print at home tickets), better customer information (e.g. through its Twitter service) and fewer weekends affected by disruptive engineering work in 2013 and 2014 (in partnership with Network Rail). The company has also played a pivotal role in the development of the East Anglian Rail Prospectus and the stakeholder alliance which is now working hard and making progress in securing further upgrades for East Anglia's rail network.
Commenting on the new agreement and significant improvements planned by the company, Jamie Burles, Managing Director, Abellio Greater Anglia said:
"I am delighted that we have agreed a very positive new contract with the Department for Transport, which will deliver real improvements for customers across our franchise network. We have taken a very customer and community-focused approach to the development of this new deal, ensuring that there are tangible benefits for passengers and stakeholders, despite this being a short franchise period, as well as paving the way for further upgrades as part of the longer franchise that will follow from October 2016. Our programme of initiatives includes a major refresh for the intercity trains on the Norwich - London route; a new Cambridge - Stansted service; Sunday service improvements on a number of routes and the start of what we hope will be an ongoing upgrade for rolling stock on the Great Eastern and West Anglia commuter services. Not only will the improvements provide a better service for passengers, they also support economic development and give greater connectivity for local communities, enabling sustainable growth across the region we serve.
We are passionate about further increasing performance and customer service standards, to deliver a better service on a more consistent basis. This agreement enables us to maintain the positive momentum we have generated over the last two years. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders, including local authorities, politicians, business organisations and rail user groups, to progress achievable improvements in the short term and build the business cases to secure major enhancements to services - especially to rolling stock and rail infrastructure such as track, signalling, overhead line - in the medium to longer term."
In welcoming the announcement, Abellio UK’s Managing Director Dominic Booth said:
“This deal delivers much needed and very welcome service improvements for passengers who have already experienced the limiting effects of one short term franchise. Abellio will now work hard with the team at AGA to roll out the improvements quickly and efficiently. The extension also sets the course for future development. We look forward, therefore, to starting a dialogue with stakeholders soon about the requirements for the long term franchise and the investments required to create a rail service that will unlock and support the long term economic development of this important part of the country.”
Notes to Editors
The planned timetable improvements are due to be introduced as follows:
July 2014 - New Cambridge - Stansted service - 8 off peak services a day in each direction on Mondays to Fridays
October 2014 - Norwich to Sheringham hourly Sunday services start to operate all year round operation (previously Summer only) - 85% increase in Winter Sunday service frequency
December 2014 - Marks Tey - Sudbury line gains additional later last train on Sundays (all year round).
May 2015 - Norwich - Lowestoft service hourly Summer Sunday introduced (increased from 2-hourly now) - 87% increase in Summer Sunday service frequency
May 2015 - Lowestoft to Ipswich line - one additional service in each direction introduced all year around
May 2015 - Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester and London - two additional Summer Sunday services introduced in each direction