New rail franchise poses questions
By Mark HeathA COMMUTER champion has said there are still many questions to be answered about the region's new rail franchise.The first Greater Anglia franchise trains pulled out of London on Thursday, replacing the Anglia, Great Eastern, West Anglia and Stanstead Express franchises.
By Mark Heath
A COMMUTER champion has said there are still many questions to be answered about the region's new rail franchise.
The first Greater Anglia franchise trains pulled out of London on Thursday, replacing the Anglia, Great Eastern, West Anglia and Stanstead Express franchises.
It will be run under the name One and bosses have promised a brighter future for the region's often frustrated rail passengers.
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But Trevor Garrod, chairman of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association, warned the old problems of infrastructure and accountability could remain.
He added: "There are still quite a lot of unanswered questions, but we are looking forward to getting the answers to them in the coming weeks and months.
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"Arguably, the replacement of four operators with just one in East Anglia is a way of simplifying the set-up - but the structure still leaves a lot of scope for buck-passing.
"Also, during the time that there were two operators in this region, the competition between them helped to increase the service level and bring down prices.
"We will be looking closely at the new franchise to ensure they continue to offer a reliable and fair service to London. We are also assuming there will be an update of stock - but again, we haven't been told that so far."
Mr Garrod called for the new franchise to install a passing loop at Beccles, to ensure an hourly service between Ipswich and Lowestoft could run.
He also encouraged it to buy more trains and continue plans for a half-hourly service between Lowestoft and Norwich that Anglia Railways had set in motion.
"The new franchise probably will be better for a lot of passengers. We welcome the fact that there's some continuity and we are pleased that Tim Clarke - formerly managing director of Anglia Railways - is the new director of this franchise," said Mr Garrod..
"It is very much a case of wanting to see them preserve the achievements of the previous franchises and build on them."
National Express chief executive, Phil White, said it wanted to build on the successes and good work of Anglia Railways, Great Eastern, West Anglia and Stansted Express.
"We want people to choose the train, not to suffer it. If the railway is to compete with other choices, it must continually improve on its quality, reliability and customer service," he added.
"We've planned this new franchise to serve both the passengers travelling along the radial routes into central London and to also create new travel opportunities for East London and East Anglia."