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Greater Anglia welcomes train service changes as Government scraps franchises




In the biggest change to the country's railways in a quarter of a century, the Government scrapping of franchises to restructure services has been welcomed by local train operator Greater Anglia.

On Monday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the privatisation model which has operated for the past 25 years was no longer working because of the coronavirus crisis.

Instead, the franchises of companies like Greater Anglia – which operates trains between Ipswich and Cambridge via Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket - are replaced by Emergency Recovery Management Agreements (ERMAs).

Suffolk NewsIpswich Train Station Picture by Mark Westley. (42355436)
Suffolk NewsIpswich Train Station Picture by Mark Westley. (42355436)

The Government claims these impose tougher performance targets and lower management fees, and will enable Parliament to begin key reforms requiring operators to co-ordinate better with each other and drive down the railways' excessive capital costs.

Management fees will now be a maximum of 1.5% of the cost base of the franchise before the pandemic began. The ERMAs are a transitional stage to the new system.

Mr Shapps, who is the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, said: “The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working.

Transport Secretary and Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps (42345195)
Transport Secretary and Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps (42345195)

“Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will simplify people's journeys, ending the uncertainty and confusion about whether you're using the right ticket or the right train company.

“It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth – but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.

“Passengers will have reliable, safe services on a network totally built around them. It is time to get Britain back on track.”

Bury St Edmunds Railway Station. Picture by Mark Westley. (42355445)
Bury St Edmunds Railway Station. Picture by Mark Westley. (42355445)

The Government has acknowledged that until passenger numbers return, significant taxpayer support will still be needed, but claims in the longer term the reforms will enable medium- and longer-term savings for taxpayers.

The changes build on recommendations from Keith Williams, chairman of Royal Mail, who was asked in 2018 to review the railways.

A spokesperson for the train operator said: “Greater Anglia welcomes today’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Transport that emergency financial support for vital rail services, including those in East Anglia, is to be continued. This will allow the rail industry to play its full part in the economic recovery.

Newmarket Station (42355449)
Newmarket Station (42355449)

“A full service is in place on all Greater Anglia routes, except the intercity services, where most services are operating, and the Stansted Express route, where a half-hourly service is in place.

“We have put in place extensive measures to enable our customers to travel with confidence and we will continue to focus on delivering a safe and reliable service for customers and communities over the months ahead, maintaining the excellent service delivered by our teams since the start of the pandemic.”

Greater Anglia has operated train services in East Anglia since 2012. It is owned as a joint venture by Abellio, the international arm of state-owned Dutch national rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen, and Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co.

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