MP wants new rail franchise to be blocked

November 9, 2011 2:56 PM
The Government has been urged not to proceed with the new Greater Anglia railway franchise after people within the industry reported that Dutch-owned railway company Abellio is planning to reduce capacity by more than 4,000 peak hour seats.
The call has been made by Colchester MP Bob Russell who said that the contract - which it is believed is due to be signed next Tuesday - should at least be delayed until there has been a full investigation into the company's plans for services in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.
Last night Mr Russell Tabled five urgent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Transport, Ms Justine Greening MP, in which he called on the Government to check the accuracy of the claims which were published in Modern Railways magazine - regarded highly as a well-informed publication on Britain's railway industry.
Liberal Democrat Mr Russell said this morning that he was "deeply concerned" at the reports which, if true, he would take as "deliberate deception against the rail travelling public of East Anglia, railway staff and myself personally."
Mr Russell said that three companies had bid for the Greater Anglia franchise after the decision was taken to withdraw it from current operators National Express East Anglia. "Frankly, everyone was hoping for a better service but we are now hearing that Abellio is set to make it worse. The Government needs to clarify the situation."
It is believed that Abellio is currently discussing with passenger carriage owner Angel Trains a reduction in the fleet of carriages. This is the subject of one of Mr Russell's five Parliamentary Questions.
In another Question, Mr Russell specifically asks the Secretary of State to "decline to sign the franchise agreement with Abellio pending clarification that the company plans to reduce capacity on the Greater Anglia network."
He also asks Ms Greening when she became aware that Abellio is to reduce the overall capacity on the services; was this before or after a decision was made to award the franchise to Abellio; what consultations were held with her Department during the franchise bidding process in respect of reducing capacity - and "if she will take immediate action to require Abellio to maintain as a minimum the current level of service provided by National Express East Anglia."
Mr Russell's other Written Questions ask that full details of Abellio's discussions with Angel Trains for a reduction in the fleet are placed in the House of Commons Library where they can be inspected by MPs; if she will confirm that the two unsuccessful bidders for the Greater Anglia franchise had pledged to maintain as a minimum the current level of service provided by National Express; and whether it was her policy to allow railway companies to reduce capacity and increase over-crowding.
Mr Russell explained: "It has been put to me by an informed source within the railway industry that, following an 8.5 per cent fare increase, we will now have the scruffiest fleet of trains in the country although Essex rail services are some of the most profitable in the country."

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