Pledge to keep rail franchise on track

p13 lead'Extra rail carriages story'- pictured L-R Steve Butcher (Chief Operating Officer, Northern Rail), David Brown (Director General, SYPTE) and David Horne, (Managing Director, East Midlands Trains)
p13 lead'Extra rail carriages story'- pictured L-R Steve Butcher (Chief Operating Officer, Northern Rail), David Brown (Director General, SYPTE) and David Horne, (Managing Director, East Midlands Trains)
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EAST Midlands Trains has pledged not to abandon its Sheffield to London franchise despite financial problems - as the firm and fellow operator Northern launched extra carriages on commuter routes.

The Government last week agreed to give East Midlands Trains a subsidy after the company made losses of £1 million a week over the first six months of 2011/12.

It followed lower-than-expected passenger growth set against payments to the Government fixed when the economy was buoyant.

David Horne, managing director of East Midlands Trains, said: “We took the decision to seek Government support to protect services to passengers.

“The Government is effectively giving a partial rebate of what we pay them, although we are still giving them more than the amount we are receiving back.

“We have incurred losses since early 2010 but the worst is now over.”

In the past, GNER and National Express, which both operated the East Coast line through Doncaster, gave up franchises due to financial difficulties.

Mr Horne spoke as he launched extra carriages on his company’s route from Sheffield to Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool, doubling most services from two carriages to four.

He said: “We have experienced passenger growth of double figures on the line since the start of our franchise in 2007 and the extra coaches will be a big improvement.”

Mr Horne added the next big change will be a further eight-minute cut from Sheffield to London journeys, from December 2012, once work to increase speeds is completed.

Northern has launched an extra 50 carriages, some of which will benefit Sheffield.

There will be 300 extra seats on three services between Sheffield and Retford and 225 extra seats on five services between Sheffield and Leeds, plus 100 more seats on a Doncaster to Sheffield service.

Rob Warnes, performance and planning director for Northern, said: “We have experienced 38 per cent passenger growth since our franchise started in 2004. Sheffield is an important growing city on our network and the extra seats will enable people to get to work more comfortably.”

Passenger Jim Bamford, aged 57, from Stannington, who commutes to Nottingham, said: “The trains have always been heaving. Hopefully I’ll now be able to get a seat each time.”