It’s “All change!” as Abellio has replaced Stagecoach in the running of the East Midlands rail franchise between Sheffield and London from August 18, with the new operator launching its services today, August 19.
The service, now know as East Midlands Railway, will be operated by Dutch firm Abellio who has promised to replace the entire existing EMR fleet with new and cascaded trains, doubling the capacity into St Pancras International. Abellio has ordered 33 bi-mode (diesel/electric) trains from Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe plant, in County Durham, with hydrogen trains also forming part of the long-term plan.
“Abellio is delighted to have been entrusted to operate East Midlands Railway,” said Dominic Booth, Managing Director of Abellio UK, “and we’ve already started on our £600 million investment package to transform rail services across the East Midlands.”
“Today is a new era for rail services across the East Midlands,” added Julian Edwards, Managing Director of East Midlands Railway. “We have already begun to deliver on our promises including new and better trains, improved stations and more services. I’ve been really impressed by the employees I have already met across the network and, working together, the railways of the East Midlands will begin to look and feel very different to today.”
The East Midlands Trains rail franchise had been operated by Stagecoach since 2007. The Government awarded the franchise to Abellio in April after Stagecoach was disqualified from the bidding process for refusing to take on pension liabilities. Abellio already has a strong presence in the UK rail network operating Greater Anglia services, between Norwich and London, and Scotrail.
Andrew Meadows, Abellio’s UK Director of Human Resources director in the UK, said it was an exciting day for Sheffield and South Yorkshire, outlining improvements to services and to Sheffield station: “We are very pleased that we have inherited a well-run railway but we feel that we can improve that railway further and as part of that we will be investing £600 million and replacing all of the existing rolling stock.
“By 2022, we will have a full new fleet of high-speed Hitachi rail trains running on our inter city services. We’re also hoping to speed up services and improve timetables. £400 million will be spent on 33 five-carriage trains, all of which will include air conditioning, wi-fi and plug sockets for passengers.
“There are some improvements for Sheffield station as well,” he added, “with improvements to waiting rooms and lounges. Sheffield is quite a large station with a number of entrances and exits so we will be looking to make some improvements to signage too.”
EMR will extend smart and mobile ticketing and introduce a flexible season ticket next year. Abellio have also announced an improved compensation scheme for passengers whose train has been delayed more than 15 minutes.
The first train has been demonstrating in the new purple East Midlands Railway livery, bearing the logo ‘EMR Intercity’ although the existing fleet will, for now, continue to run in the old East Midlands Trains’ livery whilst bearing the new logo.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Abellio’s exciting plans for East Midlands Railway will make a real difference to passengers, delivering state-of-the-art trains with more seats, station improvements and trialling hydrogen fuel cell technology to ensure that East Midlands Railway becomes one of the most environmentally-friendly in the UK.”