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Five battle it out for Sussex rail franchise
Five firms are fighting it out to run a new train franchise. The Department for Transport (DfT) is undertaking a consultation on priorities for the combined Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail franchise. The deadline for submissions is August 23.
The new rail franchise will take over in September 2013 and will cover existing First Capital Connect services to and from Brighton along the main line through London Bridge and to and from destinations north of London. Southern services that operate across Sussex will be amalgamated into the new franchise in 2015. The five bidders in line to run the services are the Go-Ahead Group, the First Group, the Stagecoach Group, the MTR Corporation and the Abellio Group. Lewes MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker has written to all five to outline his views on the improvements he believes need to be made.
These are reducing journey times from Polegate to London; reducing markedly the practice of splitting trains at Haywards Heath; reducing general overcrowding, including on the Ashford to Brighton service; tackling the capacity problem at East Croydon; and working with Network Rail to reinstate the Lewes/Uckfield line. He said: “I appreciate that the bidders cannot, at this stage, release specific details of their bids, but the key issues I have highlighted will improve the travel experience for local rail passengers.
“By making that clear to the franchise bidders, I expect them to take my comments on board and ultimately, if they are the successful bidder to provide a service for my constituents which improves travel conditions, increases capacity, provides faster services to the capital and ultimately provides a better service for local passengers.”
MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley said: “I’m currently reviewing all of the correspondence that I have received on the issue so that my response accurately reflects the views of my constituents. “I will be making a robust submission shortly.”
A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: “The council is committed to ensuring that any new franchise gives consideration and priority to services to and from Brighton and Hove which must be maintained and free flowing.
“We are also keen to ensure that tickets work on different modes of transport across the region.”
A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “This new franchise is of significant importance to West Sussex as it will affect almost all of the train services that operate across the county.
“The council welcomes improvements in efficiency that can reduce the costs of the rail industry, but is concerned that these should not have a detrimental impact on quality of service for passengers. “It believes that closer integration between Network Rail and train operating companies can improve efficiency. There may be possibilities to improve the way that capacity and station improvement works are promoted and delivered, and to better handle disruptions.
“The council is concerned that the timing of the franchise renewal process may not allow the new operator to work with Network Rail to explore additional improvement schemes.”
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