Firm makes pitch for new rail franchise

NATIONAL Express is making a major pitch for the new Greater Anglia rail franchise – by building on the reputation of its other routes which operate deep into the heart of the region.

NATIONAL Express is making a major pitch for the new Greater Anglia rail franchise – by building on the reputation of its other routes which operate deep into the heart of the region.

The franchise, due to be awarded in the winter, will cover all routes out of Liverpool Street to north and east London, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

It will replace the existing services operated by Anglia Railways, First Great Eastern, and West Anglia Great Northern.

National Express already operates four East Anglia franchises – c2c from Fenchurch Street to Southend-on-Sea, Central Railways from Norwich, Cambridge and Ely to Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham, the Stansted Express from Liverpool Street to the Essex airport, and WAGN which runs from London to Cambridge, Ely and Kings Lynn.

In a glossy brochure just released to support its franchise bid, it claims its c2c service has transformed the "misery line" into a flagship railway, with a new fleet of trains, modernised stations with first-class security and real-time passenger information, and record-breaking maintenance.

The company promises to revolutionise the structure of the business, with a senior director focusing on the core businesses of commuting, local services, marketing, community liaison and service quality.

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Norman Tovey, rail strategy director for National Express, says: "There will be a particular focus on the region's community, branch and rural railways. Initiatives will be taken to improve the connectivity of branch lines with main line services."

Although the company is waiting for the deadline for bids to expire on September 1 before revealing its hand, it does pledge if successful to play a major part in the regeneration of the Lea Valley and east London, even if the capital is not successful in its bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

National Express has yet to state publicly its plans for the InterCity route to Norwich, currently operated by ageing locomotive hauled trains, but it is understood certain premium services will be protected for long distance customers.

The company is one of three bidding for the franchise. The others are GB Railways – owners of Anglia Railways and currently subject of a takeover bid by First Group – and Arriva Trains.

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