The delayed Invitations to Tender for the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises have been published today, and they confirm that the unpopular Pacer fleets are to be withdrawn during the next contracts. The continuing presence of the small diesel units, which were based on bus bodies and built in the 1980s as cheaply as possible, had been a point of contention in the region for years.
First Great Western train damaged by bridge debris
A First Great Western driver was treated for shock after his train struck debris on a line in Wiltshire on 22 February. Rubble on the track had been dislodged from an overline bridge after one of its walls had been struck by a lorry.
New railway to Stansted Airport is 'vital'
A supporter and promoter of High Speed Rail has called for a new railway to be built linking London and Stansted Airport. Jim Steer, founder and director of global transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave and also a director of the HS2 lobby group Greengauge21, said that a new line between the airport and London Liverpool Street could reduce journey times to less than 30 minutes.
Plans for more 24-hour trains are unveiled in London
Plans to extend all-night services to the subsurface lines of London Underground as well as the DLR and part of the Overground have been announced by the Chancellor and the Mayor of London. But the RMT said the announcement had been "dropped on London by the Mayor as a blatant pre election stunt", and warned that more staff would be needed to ensure safety.
East Anglia franchise competition begins
The Department for Transport has started the search for the next operator of the East Anglia franchise. Today's announcement marks the publication of a prospectus for the next franchise, which includes plans to accelerate services, particularly on the intercity route between Norwich, Ipswich and London, which is hardly any faster now than it was before electrification in the 1980s. The present franchisee, Abellio Greater Anglia, remains in charge until 16 October 2016, when there could be a potential handover. It was awarded a two year contract from 5 February 2012, then a further two year direct award was negotiated last year. Abellio is expected to rebid.
Labour victory could mean end of the line for franchises
Labour has said that franchised train operators will be approaching the end of the line if the party wins the election in May. Shadow transport spokesman Michael Dugher labelled the present model as 'a disaster', and condemned the Rail Delivery Group because they "basically stitch up the running of the railways and they do it with our money". Michael Roberts of the RDG responded: "Britain's railway has been transformed into Europe's fastest-growing and safest network through a combination of private sector innovation, competitive tendering and government policy."
GB Railfreight beats DB Schenker for sleeper contract
Eurotunnel subsidiary GB Railfreight has won the £100 million contract to haul Caledonian Sleepers for Serco from 1 April, beating the long-standing operator DB Schenker. DBS had been hauling sleepers for more than a decade, but its current contract with FirstGroup ends when Serco takes over the newly-created separate Caledonian Sleeper franchise this spring. GBRf said the win was a 'significant development'.