Greater Anglia owner Abellio set to run cross country trains from region

East Midlands Trains run services from Norwich to Liverpool

East Midlands Trains run services from Norwich to Liverpool - Credit: Archant

Dutch rail operator Abellio – which has run Greater Anglia since 2012 – is to take over the East Midlands franchise, including train services from Norwich to Liverpool, in August.

Abellio is the commercial arm of the government-owned Dutch Railways and was awarded the franchise after the current operator, Stagecoach, was disqualified from bidding because the Department for Transport had concerns about its pension commitments.

The cross-country trains that currently link Norwich with Peterborough, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool will all be replaced during the eight-year franchise – but a spokesman for Abellio said it was not possible to give details of the new rolling stock at this stage.

He said: “That is something that will be announced over the next few weeks and months – but by the time the franchise starts in August we should be able to tell people what is coming. All our services will have new or refurbished trains introduced during the franchise.”

The fact that East Midlands Trains and Greater Anglia would be owned by the same operator would help with co-ordinating services, but this was something that happened between all train companies.

One franchise improvement that is included in the deal is the introduction of a new through service from Norwich to Derby via Nottingham. Trains will no longer run to Liverpool – a separate service will run from Nottingham to Merseyside.

Abellio also operates the London North Western franchise with trains from London to Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke and Liverpool, the West Midlands Railway franchise, Merseyrail around Liverpool, and the Scotrail franchise.

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It also runs bus companies in London and other parts of the UK.

Dominic Booth, Managing Director of Abellio UK, said: “Abellio is proud to have been selected as the Winning Bidder for the East Midlands franchise. We look forward to this franchise driving economic growth and delivering significant benefits for passengers.

“Abellio will invest £600m in improvements to trains and stations. Closer collaboration between East Midlands Railway and Network Rail will ensure that track and train are aligned to deliver vital enhancements to infrastructure and to put the interests of passengers first.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers across the East Midlands network told Transport Focus that their key priorities for improvement are frequent, punctual and reliable services, with more modern trains with free Wi-Fi and power sockets as standard along with better catering and toilet facilities on the train.

“It is good to see efforts to meet these aspirations at the heart of the new franchise with new trains, more seats and services, and actions to improve the passenger experience with free wi-fi on trains and at stations.

“Abellio East Midlands now has an unrivalled opportunity to provide outstanding journeys and customer service for rail passengers in the region.”