Buses could replace train services

By Jonathan BarnesFIRMS bidding to run the rail network in East Anglia have been told to plan for losing 10% of their budgets, it has emerged.The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) said it was asking “tough questions” of the three companies in the running for the Greater Anglia franchise - and demanding cost-cutting measures.

By Jonathan Barnes

FIRMS bidding to run the rail network in East Anglia have been told to plan for losing 10% of their budgets, it has emerged.

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) said it was asking “tough questions” of the three companies in the running for the Greater Anglia franchise - and demanding cost-cutting measures.

These could include replacing some train services with buses or axing services altogether, but the SRA insisted passengers would be put first.


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Travel companies National Express, Arriva and GB Railways - the parent company of Anglia Railways - have until September 1 to submit their bids.

They have been asked to draw up plans for a number of scenarios, including budgets being slashed by 10%.

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But the SRA denied that would mean significant cuts in rail services, although it admitted savings were essential.

SRA spokesman, Paul Latham, said: “There is a big difference between a 10% cut in budget and 10% cuts in services.

“We are asking for cost-saving suggestions, not for cuts in services. There is a real need in the industry to look very closely at every single cost and make sure there is a squeeze on them.

“It is vital that money goes towards improvements for passengers and we are asking the bidders tough questions to make sure taxpayers' money is spent to benefit those passengers.”

The provisional timetable produced by the SRA suggests a reduction in off-peak rail services between East Anglia and London from seven an hour to five an hour - and from four an hour serving Ipswich to three an hour.

Mr Latham said the proposed move was to unclog the congested rail network and provide a platform for greater reliability.

He added bus services replacing trains on some parts of the route between East Anglia and the capital was an option.

“The bidders for the Greater Anglia franchise have been asked to look into whether there are benefits, or any potential savings, in operating bus services at times of very low demand,” said Mr Latham.

“They would not be in place of train services on the whole route and it is definitely not something we have already decided upon, but it could help in allowing more time for track repairs.”

Following bids being submitted, the SRA aims to have a deal in place with the preferred bidder by the end of March.

It is being forced to order cuts after the Government slashed more than £300 million from its budget last year.

Guy Dangerfield, East of England committee secretary for the Rail Passengers' Committee, said: “We have not got a problem with the SRA trying to get value for the money and we would be delighted if the railways cost less to run.

“But we would be fundamentally opposed to replacing rail services with buses - that should be out of the question.

“If this is all about costs and not getting value for money, we will have a lot to say. We are sceptical about how much money you can save from chopping out trains here and there.”

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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