More capacity, improved trains and Sheffield railway station upgrade promised as part of £600 million investment in East Midlands franchise
Rail passengers have been promised more capacity, improved trains and an upgrade of facilities at Sheffield railway station as the new operator of East Midlands franchise pledged £600 million of investment.
Dutch-owned firm Abellio has taken over the franchise after Stagecoach was disqualified from the bidding process as it refused to take on pension liabilities.
Abellio, owned by the Dutch government-owned rail firm, promised new trains, 165 new carriages, improved infrastructure as well as improvements to waiting facilities and improved signage at Sheffield station.
Andrew Meadows, Abellio’s human resources director in the UK, said: “I think it’s an exciting day for us but I think it’s an exciting day for the Sheffield city region and South Yorkshire as Abellio takes over the East Midlands Railway franchise.
“We are very pleased that we have inherited a well-run railway but we feel that we can improve that railway further and as part of that we will be investing £600 million and replacing all of the existing rolling stock.
“By 2022, we will have a full new fleet of high-speed Hitachi rail trains running on our inter city services. We’re also hoping to speed up services and improve timetables.”
As part of the takeover, East Mildands Trains will now be called East Midlands Railway (EMR).
The rail franchise had been operated by Stagecoach since 2007.
Abellio – owned by the state-owned operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen – already operates five other rail franchises, including Scotrail and Greater Anglia services between Norwich and London.
Mr Meadows said £400 million would be spent on 33 five-carriage trains, which will include air conditioning, wi-fi and plug sockets for passengers.
The new intercity trains will run between Sheffield and London within three years – a route which also sees services called at Chesterfield, Derby and Leicester.
Mr Meadows added: “There are some improvements for Sheffield station as well in terms of improvements to waiting rooms and lounges.
“Sheffield is quite a large station with a number of entrances and exits so we will be looking to make some improvements to signage too.”
He also pledged to improve the compensation scheme available to passengers in the event their train is delayed by more than 15 minutes.
Peter Kennan, Sheffield City Region’s board member for transport, thanked Stagecoach for its work on improving services over the last 12 years.
He added: “This means that we can look forward to an improvement in the number of seats on trains between Sheffield and Chesterfield and London and that is needed without a doubt.
“The trains are operating at capacity at certain times so additional seats are needed as the growth in the number of people opting to travel by rail continues.”
Mr Kennan said 10 million passengers pass through Sheffield railway station every year, which he described as a ‘huge increase’ over the last 10 years.
He added: “We are going to see a reduction in journey times as a result of the electrification of the line at Market Harborough and a key message is that our productivity as a city region is not up to the national average so anything that improves it is very welcome.”
Clive Thompson, lives in Dore but travels to London for work every Monday morning.
He said: “£600 million is an awful lot of money – I will believe it when I see it but, to be honest, the service to London isn’t usually that bad.
“If you book in advance and reserve a seat, you shouldn’t really have a problem.”
Jayne Richardson was travelling to visit family in Leicester and said she hoped the investment would encourage others to travel by train.
She said: “I have never really a problem when I go to visit my son but hopefully the money will lead to more people using the trains.
“It’s certainly better that fighting through the traffic on the M1.”