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Fresh improvements calls for Bromley and Bexley train services as applicants for south eastern franchise announced

PUBLISHED: 15:17 22 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:17 22 June 2017

Southeastern passengers can still have their say on the future of the franchise in a government consultation

Southeastern passengers can still have their say on the future of the franchise in a government consultation

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The announcement was made today (Thursday)

South Eastern trains at Orpington stationSouth Eastern trains at Orpington station

Politicians are together calling for improvements to south eastern train services after the government revealed its four applicants for the franchise on Thursday.

Bidders from across the globe have thrown their names into the hat, as well as current holder Southeastern which has drawn consistent criticism from passengers, recently ranking second bottom in the country for customer satisfaction. Only strike-hit Southern finished lower.

Orpington MP Jo Johnson said he had no problem with foreign investment into the franchise, which has drawn eyes from Europe and Asia, and focussed only on improving the service.

He said: “A competitive tendering process is the best way to secure a high-quality service for passengers, so I welcome the number of operators that have already entered the running to take over the franchise.

Jo Johnson. Photo: Daniel JonesJo Johnson. Photo: Daniel Jones

“I have been clear from the outset that whichever company takes over the franchise must deliver the service improvements that hard working commuters in Orpington are long overdue.

“As long as the succesful bidder delivers on the requirements in the franchise agreement I do not have an issue with train operating companies benefitting from foreign investment.”

Italian firm Trenitalia, which already owns Essex train operating company c2c, ranked fourth in the country for customer satisfaction, has been revealed as one of the applicants, along with London and South East Passenger Rail Services Ltd, owned by Govia Limited, the same company which runs current franchise holders Southeastern.

A third bidder, South Eastern Holdings Limited will see Dutch Abellio Transport Group Limited partner with East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Limited if handed the franchise.

James Brokenshire and David Evennett at Bexleyheath stationJames Brokenshire and David Evennett at Bexleyheath station

Abellio already operates Greater Anglia services, and this year came fourth bottom in a customer satisfaction survey, two places above Southeastern.

The final applicant is Stagecoach South Eastern Trains Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Scottish transport firm Stagecoach Group, which has operated trains in the south west and east midlands since the 1990s.

The government is expecting franchise holders to be able to get the most out of the Thameslink rail improvement programme as well as the new Crossrail service, which will arrive in Abbey Wood the same month the franchise is awarded.

Under current timetables, more than 2,000 trains run every week day on the south eastern line.

Chief executive of rail watchdog Transport Focus Anthony Smith said: “The south eastern franchise network is one of the largest and busiest in the country.

“Passengers on this network have told us they want a more punctual and reliable service with more space to sit and stand.

“They want to be treated well when things go wrong. With the bidders confirmed, Transport Focus will be working with them and the government to keep passengers’ expectations firmly at the centre of the new plans.”

With a public consultation into the franchise drawing to a close on June 30, Bexleyheath and Crayford MP David Evennett has made a final push for passengers to have their say on what they will need from a future operator, before the government makes its decision.

The Tory MP said: “Southeastern have failed local passengers, and the new operator must work closer with Network Rail to improve punctuality and reliability to provide the service rail users deserve.”

Old Bexley and Sidcup MP James Brokenshire agreed with his neighbouring MP, claiming improvements should not stop at the franchise.

He said: “Network Rail is responsible for the track and signals where regular failures continue to cause delays.

“Any contract needs to bind together the train company with Network Rail in a new shared approach.

“It is this link which will be key to delivering the sustained improvements that passengers expect.”

Mr Brokenshire went on to add that any future service should preserve “the existing choice of London destinations” for passengers, after consultation documents suggested reducing the number of London terminals served by the Dartford and Bexleyheaths from three to one, London Cannon Street.

The government has since dismissed the suggestion by stating it was “not proposing to cut specific services”

Have your say on the consultation here.

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