Rail customers using East Midlands Trains on the Grantham to Skegness and Lincoln to Peterborough lines as well as other services look set to benefit from a share of around £13m of investment in stations, on-board service, new technology and more staff training
Increased investment in community rail and a new schools education initiative also figure in the investment under a new agreement between Stagecoach Group and the Department for Transport (DfT) which will see a new franchise starting in October, to run until at least March 2018.
East Midlands Trains says customers will benefit from a wide range of improvements with a fares freeze on Anytime fares to London, a ticket sale offering 250,000 discounted tickets, cleaner stations, roll-out of a new “Cafe en route” to provide an enhanced on board service, new technology to help provide faster and better customer information when and where customers need it and a new automated refunds system.
Local communities will gain from the new deal, which will see an extra £250,000 invested in community rail (the Grantham to Skegness line is a community rail line), the introduction of a new schools education programme and continued investment in apprenticeships and graduate schemes.
Taxpayers will benefit from the agreement, with £150m of forecast premium payments to the Government between October 2015 and March 2018.
The new franchise will commence on October 18 and run until March 4, 2018. The DfT has the option to extend the contract by up to one year.
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group Chief Executive, said: “This is a significant package of investment for customers travelling on East Midlands Trains. It will build on what our team has achieved over the past eight years and deliver further valuable improvements for the millions of passengers and many communities who rely on the East Midlands Trains network.
“Britain’s railway is part of the fabric of our communities - that is why our plans include more opportunities for graduates and young people, new links with schools, greater investment in community rail, and improved training to help our employees deliver a first class service to customers.
“The new East Midlands Trains franchise will also deliver a multi-million-pound return to the taxpayer to help fund the Government’s ongoing investment programme for the UK rail network.”
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “This is a great deal for East Midlands Trains customers, and will mean significantly better journeys for passengers travelling around the region.”
Jake Kelly, Managing Director of East Midlands Trains, added: “Over the past eight years, we have demonstrated our commitment to providing the best possible service for our customers. The agreement with the Department for Transport will now allow us to invest even further in the areas that matter most to our customers.
“As well as improvements to stations and our on-board service, we’ll also be rolling out new technology to make journeys even easier. At the same time, we’ll be offering better value for money by cutting the cost of thousands of fares and launching our biggest ticket seat sale, all designed to offer big improvements for millions of East Midlands Trains customers.”
Since the start of the East Midlands Trains franchise in November 2007, East Midlands Trains, which was named Passenger Operator of the Year last year, has delivered a major programme of improvements for customers.
Planned improvements to be delivered for customers include:
Better value fares – freeze on all Anytime fares to London until 2017; and a quarter of a million discounted Advance Purchase tickets made available through the company’s biggest ever ticket sale
New technology and easier travel – launch of new mobile app; upgraded 4G connectivity on trains and free 15 minutes WiFi on London trains in Standard Class; new smartphones for customer-facing employees; more ticket machines; and extra help-points at stations
Faster refunds – an improved online compensation system for delays, providing faster compensation to customers who make valid claims;
Cleaner stations and trains – extra cleaning staff on trains and cleaner stations
Accessibility and security improvements – new in-house disability expert; improved passenger assistance system; £1m investment in station accessibility improvements; and extension of secure stations programme
Improved on-board service – on-board shop available on many busy peak time services to/from London to offer an even wider range of drinks and snacks; catering trolley service extended to more stops on Liverpool to Norwich services; complimentary First Class breakfast extended to include selected Saturday morning services for the first time
More seats and faster journeys – further improvements to the Nottingham-Newark-Lincoln timetable, with extra services and faster journey times on Saturdays; working with the Department for Transport to examine options for further improvements to services at weekends across other local routes
Community engagement – extension of community rail programme, supported by extra £250,000 in funding and new Partnerships Manager; roll out of schools education and work experience initiatives; new Charity Committee; expansion of popular station adoption scheme; and further work to promote and support local small and medium-sized businesses
Investment in people – more frontline staff to help customers; enhanced customer service training for employees; providing more opportunities for graduates and young people.