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Greater Anglia franchise hits the buffers.

June 25, 2020 1:44 PM
By Oliver Holmes

Grant Shapps, the Transport Minister, yesterday told a select committee that the incredibly complex and costly rail franchise system, set up by the Tories nearly 30 years ago, will be a casualty of Covid. The Greater Anglia franchise (made up of Dutch company Abellio and Japanese firm Mitsui), which provides all rail services in Suffolk, is unlikely to survive in its present format. Lib Dems have always opposed the franchise system, which has not only failed to provide promised market efficiencies, but has left East Anglian passengers with under-capitalised lines providing unreliable services at high ticket prices.

Ironically, services out of Ipswich have only just started to improve with Greater Anglia winning an industry award for punctuality in 2019 and with new trains and rolling stock (a condition of the 2016 franchise renewal) appearing on our lines in recent months. Ipswich has not seen a purposely built new train in regular service for over 60 years - one of the worst investment records in the country. As a further injustice, Greater Anglia has to pay to the Government the UK's second highest premium for an intercity operator - to 2025, the end of the franchise period, the premium will total £3.7 billion. This means that Ipswich rail users pay more per mile travelled than most other passengers in the UK. For example, in 2017, the London Evening Standard calculated that the Ipswich - London ticket price was the most expensive ticket per mile into London.

The Lockdown has meant that passenger numbers nationally plummeted from 100% capacity on 9 March to 6% at the end of the month. Greater Anglia boss, Jamie Burles admitted the industry had been "caught by surprise". Recovery will be slow which means that the train operating companies will be unable to meet the terms of their franchise agreements and will be unable to come out of emergency measures. The Government is currently paying nearly £600 million per month to the companies.

A viable and sustainable rail system is vital to the UK if we are to provide a safe and reliable transport system which fulfills our climate commitments. It has been obvious for years that this Tory experiment has been a disaster for passengers, particularly in transport starved Ipswich. Now is the time to start afresh.







Greater Anglia train