Government demands Norwich rail service improvements
Jon WelchTrain passengers can expect quicker journeys between Norwich and London and more carriages at peak time under plans unveiled by the government.Jon Welch
Train passengers can expect quicker journeys between Norwich and London and more carriages at peak time under plans unveiled by the government.
The proposed improvements are detailed in a consultation set up by the government as part of the process to find a new train operator for the region when the current franchise ends next year.
The plan, unveiled by rail minister Chris Mole, follows the decision in November to strip National Express East Anglia of its franchise from 2011.
The rail operator, which took over in 2004, had hoped the deal would be extended until 2014, but it was cut short after parent company surrendered its London-to-Edinburgh East Coast Mainline franchise because it was losing too much money.
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Whoever takes over the Greater Anglia franchise, which operates services from London to Norwich, Ipswich and Cambridge, may have to agree to consider a number of improvements, including cutting journey times between Norwich and London and introducing minimum catering standards on inter-city trains.
Speaking at Norwich Station yesterday, Mr Mole said: 'We think that there may be opportunities for the franchisee to improve punctuality on inter-city services and improve journey times, if they can, by working with Network Rail and others.
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'We think they can look at the capacity they provide: coming out of Liverpool Street at rush hour, for instance, can be quite busy.'
The successful bidder will also be asked to improve the reliability of long-distance services and facilities at stations.
Mr Mole said he was confident that the tendering process would attract some strong bids, ensuring it was good value for tax-payers.
'National Express can bid theoretically, but we have made it very clear that the behaviour of the parent group in its handling of the East Coast Mainline means it is unlikely they would pre-qualify for the tender process. It would be a big risk for them.'