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NEW RAIL FRANCHISE CONSULTATIONS LAUNCHED FOR THREE NEW RAIL FRANCHISES

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EXTRA RAIL SERVICES FOR THE EAST AND WEST MIDLANDS PROPOSED...
EXTRA RAIL SERVICES FOR THE EAST AND WEST MIDLANDS PROPOSED

Transport politicians in the West Midlands have welcomed the growth agenda set out in the details of new rail franchises published for consultation today.

Regional body Centro-PTA says that although it knew there had been discussions about frequency cuts on some of the region's busiest lines, the Department for Transport is now proposing that services should be maintained and the new West Midlands franchise, to replace Central Trains' existing operation, includes some 40 extra services per day.

'One in five Birmingham commuters travel by train and we hope they can now look forward to better services in the years to come,' comments Centro-PTA chairman Gary Clarke.

'This document does show an understanding of the importance of rail services to the West Midlands and we are very pleased that it encourages train operating companies to plan for growth. The recognition that commuter services exist outside London and the south east and these services are vital to our regional economy is long overdue,' he adds.

The 12,000 word document was made available this morning to Centro-PTA, the local councillor body which had previously been a co-signatory to the Central Trains franchise. A detailed response will be submitted to the Department for Transport before the August deadline.

That response will set out local anger that the DfT is unwilling to underwrite the Walsall to Wolverhampton passenger service, leaving local taxpayers to pick up the bill if it is not to be axed.

Other issues likely to be picked up by local councillors include suitable assurances that will actually deliver the reliability improvements if there is a change to existing monitoring arrangements and penalty regimes. They will also be looking at protection against fare increases if some of the existing safeguards are removed and an assurance that staffing levels will be maintained at local stations.

'With the clear exception of the axing of the Walsall to Wolverhampton service, this is basically good news for passengers and the future of the West Midlands transport network,' says Mr Clarke.

'There is support for some of our important policy initiatives such as integrated multi-modal ticketing and the introduction of smartcards - similar to the Oystercard in London - and we will use the opportunity of the consultation period to lobby hard on behalf of passengers where we want to see other improvements.

'Centro-PTA is keen to play an active role in the management of the new West Midlands franchise, building on our successful involvement in the previous franchise, and we will be talking to the Department of Transport about our role and the best way of representing regional interests,' he adds.

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT

EXTRA RAIL SERVICES FOR THE WEST MIDLANDS PROPOSED

The Department for Transport launched a consultation on the service specification for the new West Midlands rail franchise today.

The new franchise will combine Silverlink County services with West Midlands local and regional services currently provided by Central Trains.

The consultation invites views on proposals for the minimum level of services that a future operator will have to deliver when the franchise begins operating on the 11th November 2007.

Overall the consultation proposes around 40 extra train services per day. This is building on the extra capacity provided by the£7.6bn investment in the modernisation of the West Coast Main Line.

Proposed improvements include an additional hourly service between Manchester and Birmingham, more frequent services between Birmingham and Northampton and between Euston, Northampton, Tamworth and Crewe.

The consultation also proposes that the future operator of the franchise should consider the introduction of more flexible and value added tickets to encourage demand. They should also ensure that the busiest stations achieve secure station status. Recent improvements in performance will have to be built upon and improved.

Bidders will be asked to price options to put in place more services on the Watford Junction - St Albans Abbey; Walsall - Hednesford and Shirley to Whitlock's End routes and extend the Bedford to Bletchley service onwards to Milton Keynes when future planned infrastructure changes allow.

Rail minister Derek Twigg said:

'This is an important franchise and it is entirely right that we consult on the services it provides.

'If these proposals go ahead, passengers will further benefit from the investment we have made in the West Coast Main Line.

'Bidders for the franchise will have to demonstrate how they will deliver extra services on busy routes, build on recent performance improvements and meet the growing demand for rail travel across the franchise area.'

Responses to the consultation are invited by 7 August 2006.

They will help inform the Invitation to Tender, which will be given to pre-qualified bidders in autumn 2006. The closing date of bids is February 2007 and the winner announced in summer 2007.

NOTES

1. The consultation is available on the DfT website - www.dft.gov.uk

- and includes the following proposals:

* A new additional hourly service between Birmingham and Manchester.

It will call at Wolverhampton, Penkridge (peak hours), Stafford, Stone, Stoke-on-Trent, Congleton, Macclesfield, Prestbury, Adlington, Poynton, Bramhall, Cheadle Hulme and Stockport.

* More frequent services between Birmingham and Northampton to give a half-hourly all day service

* More trains to give an hourly service between London Euston, Northampton and Crewe. Calling at Watford Junction, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Long Buckby, Rugby, Nuneaton, Atherstone or Polesworth, Tamworth, Lichfield Trent Valley, Rugeley Trent Valley, Stafford and Crewe. It may also be possible to extend certain services to Liverpool.

* Reinstatement of rail services at Stone station - through calls in the new Birmingham to Manchester service

* Chiltern will be invited to put forward proposals to operate services through Birmingham Snow Hill. Overall service levels will remain.

* The removal of the poorly used Wolverhampton to Walsall service - although it would be possible for others to fund the service.

* Initiatives to reduce overcrowding and accommodate forecast demand for rail travel

* Introduce new, more flexible and added value tickets

* Continued improvements in operational performance with new targets included the new contract

* Improved station safety with the busiest stations awarded Secure Stations scheme status

* Continued support for Community Rail projects

* Consultations are also being launched for the new East Midlands and Cross Country franchises. Documents are available on the DfT website at www.dft.gov.uk

2. DfT is also consulting on proposals for the New Cross Country franchise which will provide additional capacity on Cross Country services that will serve Birmingham. Consultation documents are available on the DfT website www.dft.gov.uk

3. It was announced on 18 October 2005 that three new franchises would replace the four existing franchises of Central Trains, Silverlink, Cross Country and Midland Mainline.

4. Expressions of Interest have been invited for the three franchises. Details, including advertisements, Prior Information Notices and guidance on railway franchising procurement processes can also be found on the DfT website www.dft.gov.uk

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT

CONSULTATIONS LAUNCHED FOR THREE NEW RAIL FRANCHISES

The Department for Transport today launched consultations on the specifications for the new East Midlands, West Midlands and New Cross Country franchises.

The consultations seek views on proposals for the minimum levels of service that future operators must deliver. The three new franchises will start operating on 11th November 2007.

Proposals for the three new franchises will address crowding, with additional trains operated in each of the franchise areas.

The consultations mean that new operators will run around an extra 40 daily services on the new West Midlands franchise and around 20 more daily services in the new East Midlands franchise. New Cross Country services will be extended to more stations, including Nottingham, Leicester, Peterborough and Stansted Airport.

The proposals would require bidders to support further growth by increasing capacity. They will be expected to explore extra services and operate longer trains on the busiest routes.

New franchise contracts will set targets for year on year performance improvement. The modernisation of the West Coast Main Line will also allow more and faster journeys on the New Cross Country and West Midlands franchises.

In the East and West Midlands franchises, where the operators will be responsible for stations, the busiest stations will achieve secure stations accreditation.

Derek Twigg, Rail Minister said:

'These consultations are important in making sure these new franchises deliver improvements for rail passengers.

'We want to build on recent performance improvements and encourage passenger numbers to grow still further. We want to increase capacity on busy routes, run more services, reduce journey times and capitalise on our major investment in the West Coast Main Line.'

Responses are invited by 07 August 2006. They will inform the Invitation to Tender, which will be given to pre-qualified bidders in Autumn 2006. The closing dates for receipt of bids is February 2007 and the winner announced in Summer 2007.

Notes

1. Consultation documents are available on the DfT website at www.dft.gov.uk

2. On the New Cross Country franchise, new hourly services between Manchester and Bristol are proposed, as well as faster journeys between Manchester and Birmingham.

* A new timetable that will allow a substantial increase in capacity on crowded trains

* The New Cross Country map will not include the current services from Reading to Brighton via Gatwick Airport. From December 2006 there will be two Greater Western trains per hour between Gatwick and Reading where passengers will be able to connect into the New Cross Country services.

* DfT is in discussions with Virgin Rail Group about the possibility that the services between Birmingham and Scotland are operated by West Coast Trains. It is hoped there will be the same number of services as today but the timetable will be improved.

* Today's service level will be maintained between Birmingham and Penzance.

3. In the West Midlands franchise, there will be a new hourly service between Birmingham and Manchester and more frequent services between Birmingham and Northampton. Proposals also include new, all day, direct services between Trent Valley stations and London and it may be possible, in future, to extend these services to Liverpool.

4. In the East Midlands franchise, DfT is proposing a new through service between Nottingham and Leeds and at least 2 trains per hour to London from the new station at East Midlands Parkway. It is also expected that the existing service between Liverpool and Birmingham will call at Liverpool South Parkway.

5. It was announced on 18 October 2005 that three new franchises would replace the four existing franchises of Central Trains, Silverlink, Cross Country and Midland Mainline.

6. Expressions of Interest have been invited for the three franchises. Details, including advertisements, Prior Information Notices and guidance on railway franchising procurement processes can also be found on the DfT website www.dft.gov.uk

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT

EXTRA RAIL SERVICES FOR THE EAST MIDLANDS PROPOSED

The Department for Transport today launched a consultation on the specification for the new East Midlands rail franchise.

The new franchise will combine the existing Midland Mainline franchise and the East Midlands regional services currently provided by Central Trains.

The consultation seeks views on proposals for the minimum level of service thata future operator must deliver. The new franchise will start operating on 11th November 2007 and will put in place up to 5% more trains than today.

The consultation proposes further improvements including services for the new East Midlands Parkway station, which is anticipated to open

in December 2008. Extra capacity to meet anticipated growth in

passenger demand including a new outer suburban service between Kettering and London is also included.

Bidders will also be required to price serving a proposed new station at Corby as an incremental option to provide the town with an hourly direct service to London. The total journey time is likely to be around an hour and a quarter.

A new through service between Nottingham to Leeds, to be operated by either Northern Rail or the East Midlands franchise is also planned.

The specification will require the future operator to build on recent performance improvements and ensure more stations achieve Secure Station Status.

Rail Minister Derek Twigg said:

'This is an important franchise and it is entirely right that we consult on the services it provides.

'If these proposals go ahead passengers will further benefit for the recent performance improvements on the Midland Main Line.

'More people are choosing to travel by train in the East Midlands. We want to provide extra and faster services where they are needed, build on recent performance improvements and create a safer station environment.'

Responses are invited by 07 August 2006. They will inform the Invitation to Tender, which will be given to pre-qualified bidders in Autumn 2006. The closing dates for receipt of bids is February 2007 and the winner announced in Summer 2007.

Notes

1. The consultation proposals are available on the DfT website www.dft.gov.uk and include:

* Services calling at East Midlands Parkway station (when built), with at least 2 trains per hour to London

* A new outer suburban service between Kettering and London

* Extra calls at Grantham on Nottingham to Skegness services

* Continued improvements in operational performance with new targets included the new contract

* Improved station safety with the busiest stations awarded Secure Stations scheme status

* Continued support for Community Rail projects

* Market Harborough will receive faster peak time services to London, cutting journey time by around 10 - 25 minutes. However, off-peak services will be reduced for operational reasons.

2. Consultations are also being launched for the new West Midlands and New Cross Country franchises. Documents are available on the DfT website at www.dft.gov.uk Responses are invited from 08 June to 07 August 2006.

3. It was announced on 18 October 2005 that three new franchises would replace the four existing franchises of Central Trains, Silverlink, Cross Country and Midland Mainline.

4. Expressions of Interest have been invited for the three franchises. Details, including advertisements, Prior Information Notices and guidance onrailway franchising procurement processes can also be found on the DfT website - www.dft.gov.uk

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