A partnership of Stagecoach and Virgin Trains has been awarded the East Coast franchise. The winners have beaten two other bidders -- FirstGroup and a consortium of Keolis and Eurostar. The eight year contract involves premiums worth more than £2 billion in real terms, and includes 23 new services from London to major destinations. The award is controversial, because unions and other campaigners wanted East Coast to remain publicly run. The RMT has condemned the decision as 'an act of utter betrayal', while it has been revealed that Labour tried to have the award process suspended.
Plan to link HS2 to Birmingham New Street
The West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority and the Rail Delivery Group are proposing that HS2 should be linked to the existing railway in central Birmingham so that some trains could serve New Street station as well as the new Curzon terminal planned alongside Moor Street station. The idea of such a connection is disclosed in written evidence from the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee. The suggestion has come at the same time as an independent think tank has concluded that high speed rail is a catalyst for economic regeneration.
Punctuality continues to worsen
Punctuality across Britain’s rail network has continued to decline – with only 84.6 per cent of trains within 5 or 10 minutes of right time in the past month, and only 55.4 per cent ‘on time’.
c2c Rail had the best punctuality in the four weeks ending 8 November, with 96.9 per cent of its trains arriving within 5 minutes of schedule – while Southern had the poorest , with 78.7 per cent of its services arriving within 5 minutes of right time.
Jail sentence for driver who passed red signal
A train driver who did not switch on his cab radio and then overrode a key safety system after passing a signal at red has been given a three month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months. A prosecution under the Health and Safety Act was brought by the Office of Rail Regulation after an inquiry. The ORR said that its investigation found that the driver had failed to take reasonable care of the safety of himself, passengers and other persons who might have been affected by his actions.
New passenger record on London Underground
The number of people using London Underground is continuing to set new records, and is now rivalling the National Rail network. Transport for London said the Underground carried 1,263.6 million people last year -- or 24.3 million passengers in an average week. The week starting 9 December last year saw 27.2 million journeys, as Christmas shoppers swelled the total. As records continue to be set, TfL has warned that 'sustainable investment must be guaranteed', because by 2050 demand for public transport is predicted to have increased by 60 per cent on the Underground and 80 per cent on National Rail.
State buys back more than 100 railfreight sites
A deal to transfer more than 100 railfreight yards and depots back to the public sector has been confirmed, with the rights to 105 such sites now owned by Network Rail, which itself became a government body on 1 September. The sites had been acquired by various railfreight operators when British Rail sold its freight businesses almost 20 years ago as part of railway privatisation. Network Rail described the deals as 'self financing', pointing to the predictions of steep market growth in the sector over the next 30 years.
New transport powers for Manchester
The process of devolving powers to the English regions has been boosted by an announcement from the Chancellor that Manchester is to gain more control over transport and other issues, and also an elected Mayor. George Osborne confirmed that the proposed Metrolink line to Trafford is to go ahead, supported by a grant of £350 million, while the region's buses are to be regulated via a system of route tenders on the London model.