I met with the new rail franchise provider for the Midlands Mainline train services – a Dutch company called ‘Abellio’ – who were confirmed to take on services for the next eight years by the Transport Minister this week.
They have made a number of commitments on train services and quality which I will try to hold them to account on. In particular I’m worried about the continued ‘slam door’ trains where passengers have to lean outside to open the door, because this makes the service inaccessible for many people with mobility difficulties.
Meanwhile, legal action has been launched by Stagecoach against the Department for Transport after the company was excluded from the bidding process for the East Midlands rail franchise due to a ‘non-compliant’ bid due to the Department’s concerns about its pension commitments.
According to Stagecoach, bidding parties for franchises have been asked to bear a full long-term funding risk. The Pensions Regulator has estimated that, to address the pensions shortfall, the UK rail industry needs an additional £5-6bn.
Stagecoach has also been barred from South Eastern’s and West Coast Partnership’s bidding process.