Stagecoach on right track as bid makes East Anglia shortlist


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The Independent Online

Stagecoach’s bid for the Liverpool Street to East Anglia franchise looks to be on the right track after the rail operator was shortlisted to run the commuter routes.

Stagecoach, which already runs trains from Waterloo, Euston, King’s Cross and St Pancras, hopes to secure the East Anglia franchise with its joint venture partner, the Dutch state rail company, Abellio.

The duo is vying with FirstGroup and National Express, which runs Essex to Fenchurch Street services, to show that they can reduce London-to-Norwich journey times by 20 minutes.

National Express used to run the Anglian franchise but was stripped of the contract in 2012, while FirstGroup is down to its last franchise, which runs only until 2019, after a spectacular run of bid defeats.

Bidders for the new franchise, which will run for eight to  11 years, will have to show how they will shorten journey times to London and provide more reliable services and better connections.

They will also be expected to show how they could reduce London-to-Norwich journey times to 90 minutes from today’s minimum time of one hour and 50 minutes.

Companies will be invited to tender their final bids for the rail franchise, which carries more than 354,000 passengers a day, in August.

The successful operator is expected to take over the franchise in October 2016, when Abellio’s current two-year contract with the Department for Transport ends.

Stagecoach and Abellio have both had recent successes in other franchise competitions. Perth-based Stagecoach, with its partner Virgin, took over the East Coast Main Line franchise earlier this year, which means that it now runs both main line routes between London and Scotland.

Abellio has also recently became the operator of ScotRail trains, a franchise awarded by the Scottish government.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has publicly backed the Norwich in Ninety campaign to speed up the main line. One in every 12 trains on Greater Anglia runs late, although Abellio claims that it has got punctuality levels up to 91.1 per cent, from the 90.9 per cent it inherited.

A recent study also found that the Greater Anglia operator received more negative tweets from angry commuters about its service than any other rail operator in the country – more than 70,000 in a year.

Shares in Stagecoach rose 3.8p to 408.6p.