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Southeastern service to Charing Cross arrives at St Leonards Warrior Square station.

Southeastern service to Charing Cross arrives at St Leonards Warrior Square station.

HBC welcomes tender for new rail franchise

As the Southeastern train operating franchise went out to tender last week, council leader Peter Chowney welcomed the move and looked forward to improvements on the current standard of service. Nick Terdre reports.

The invitation to tender (ITT) for the Southeastern train operating franchise which was issued by the Department for Transport last week has been welcomed by Hastings Borough Council.

“Although a long, technical document, the ITT contains some very positive nuggets of information for Hastings,” said council leader Peter Chowney. “It encourages bidders to develop shorter journey times for peak journeys, specifically mentioning peak services between Hastings and London Bridge.

“And, very excitingly, it also encourages bidders to fund improvements to the railway infrastructure, using as an example enabling high-speed services to reach Hastings.

“That is exactly what we were hoping for, this is another vital step forward in us achieving ‘game changing’ improvements to our train services.

“As a result of this, we could see high-speed trains running between St Pancras International and Hastings within five years, which will help transform Hastings as a place to live, work and visit.”

The tender was also welcomed by local MPs Amber Rudd and Huw Merriman. “Last month the Department for Transport committed to examining the changes to the track layout at Ashford International to make possible direct journeys to London St Pancras,” Ms Rudd said. “This ITT now encourages the franchise operator to run the service after these changes have been made.

“Ahead of this we will also see faster, better and more reliable services to London on the Hastings mainline. This is a plan for future rail services which will deliver real benefits to local passengers and our towns.”

Four bidders

The new franchise is due to come into effect in April 2019. Short-listed bidders include Govia, which has held the franchise since 2006 and also operates the Southern rail system. Three other bidders are competing for the franchise: South Eastern Holdings (a joint venture between Abellio, East Japan Railway Co and Mitsui), Stagecoach and Trenitalia, the Italian train operator.

A public consultation was held before the terms of the new franchise were decided. Among improvements required by the DfT are a capacity boost of an additional 40,000 passengers a day and longer trains with fast wifi connectivity. Compensation arrangements are to be improved, with the qualifying time for a refund due to delayed running reduced to 15 minutes.

The successful franchisee will also be required to set up a joint team with Network Rail to improve the coordination of track maintenance with train operation.

“Colleagues from Hastings Borough Council are meeting all of the potential franchisees over the coming weeks, and we will obviously be encouraging them all to submit bids that will turn [our] hope into reality,” said Mr Chowney.

“A lot of people have worked very hard to get us to this point, and I would like to thank all those involved.”

A change of government could see an end to privatised rail operation. Labour Party policy is to take the railways back into public ownership.

Posted 15:08 Monday, Dec 4, 2017 In: Travel

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