Next train operator needs to sign up to much more ambitious contract, say MPs

Jo Churchill.

Jo Churchill. - Credit: Gregg Brown

East Anglia’s new train franchise is a “once in a generation opportunity” and it must be more ambitious than the current blueprint, the rail minister has been told.

MPs said the new operator should be left under no illusion that were “no ifs and no buts” that they should provide new trains when they take over in 2016.

Rail minister Claire Perry was told by Colchester MP Will Quince that the performance of Abellio Greater Anglia and Network Rail had been “shambolic verging on incompetence” as he described how a constituent had lost his job because of late trains.

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, who secured the debate, called for “Stowmarket in 70” as the deadline for private companies to set out what they would do on the rail network if they win the contract arrives today.

She said there needed to be improvements to stations, stock and services from whichever private company won the nine year contract to run the railways from October 2016.

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She said: “My constituents don’t want to stand on their trains, they want to sit connected by wifi, maybe with a cup of coffee, neither of which service you can get.”

She called for the new operator to deliver “maximum punch for my constituents”, and said operators should be challenged the operators to fill in the gaps in the tender had failed to specify.

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South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge warned that branch lines like Sudbury, which are used by thousands of passengers, must not be forgotten as he hit out at the decision to cancel the Sudbury service because so many trains had been damaged by leaves on the line.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous called for more capacity, describing how people in Lowestoft could not get on a train last Saturday, because of a football match and Christmas shoppers in Norwich.

Answering the debate Ms Perry said they wanted the market to go away and be creative what they came up with. “We are no longer in the business of letting franchises purely on the economics”.

She said that quality would be crucial in deciding which company won the contract.

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