Today (17 September 2015) I have published the Invitation to tender (ITT) documents setting out the specification for the next East Anglia rail franchise. This asks bidders to set out detailed proposals on what improvements for passengers they will deliver and how they will build on the East Anglia line should they win the franchise.
Alongside the ITT I have published a stakeholder briefing document which describes what the specification will mean for passengers and how the responses to the public consultation held between December 2014 and March 2015 have been taken into account when my officials developed the ITT.
We know that customers are not satisfied with the current arrangements on this route. The rolling stock is too old and unreliable and there is demand for more, faster services. That is why this ITT has the condition and quality of trains at its very heart. I believe that the minimum standards we have set out today will provide bidders with the opportunity to address these fundamental issues. We expect to see new trains servicing this route but have not specified this because we want to incentivise the bidders to price their options competitively while ensuring that the taxpayer gets maximum value for their investment. We have reformed franchising to place quality of service and passenger experience at the centre of the process. These changes have already led to a step-change in performance elsewhere in the country and I expect East Anglia to fully benefit as well.
The region served by the East Anglia franchise is vital to the long term economic growth of the country. It was clear from the more than 1,300 responses my officials received to the consultation exercise that we need to make sure that the railway does more to support it in the next franchise. The specification I have published today sets out how we will do just that.
A key part of the ITT is that bidders will be required to plan for how they will introduce at least 4 services (2 in each direction) between Norwich and London that have a journey time of 90 minutes or less each weekday; and at least 2 services between Ipswich and London (1 in each direction) that have a journey time of less than 60 minutes. These headline journey times were a key recommendation of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce and were highlighted in responses to the consultation. I am therefore delighted that the next franchise will see these services become a reality.
There are a number of other requirements that will mean passengers will see a step change in the franchise. Approximately 180 additional services are specified each week across the franchise, significantly enhancing journey opportunities for passengers. The franchise’s rolling stock too will be significantly improved as a result of this ITT and while we have not been specific about what class of train bidders must use, we have been clear that they should be of a high quality and fit for the railway of the 21st century. That means that all of the trains should include provision for Wi-Fi and controlled emission toilets, so that waste is not dropped onto the tracks. The specification also acknowledges the calls to reduce crowding on the franchise by establishing challenging targets for bidders to meet in their plans.
Throughout the ITT my officials have taken an output based approach to specification. This means that the private sector bidders for the franchise have the space to innovate and use their experience to develop the best possible solutions for passengers on the franchise.
The 3 bidders for the franchise:
- Abellio East Anglia Limited (a joint venture between Abellio and Stagecoach)
- First East Anglia Limited
- National Express East Anglia Trains Limited
will now have until 17 December 2015 to provide their bids to the department. These will then be evaluated and I expect to announce my intention to award the contract to the preferred bidder in June 2016, with the new 9 year East Anglia franchise expected to start in October that year.
For too long, East Anglia has not had the high quality rail services that it deserves. The specification that I have published today will reverse this situation. I now look forward to the bidders stepping up to this challenge and providing plans that will provide a transformation on the East Anglia franchise for passengers and taxpayers.