Trenitalia offers National Express a deal it can’t refuse for the c2c franchise
National Express Group has signed a £70m deal to sell the current c2c rail franchise, which operates across 26 stations between Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness in East London and South Essex, to Trenitalia. Completion of the acquisition is conditional upon final consent from the Department for Transport.

The acquisition is the first step in Trenitalia’s plans to expand into the UK rail passenger market, as part of the FS Italiane Group’s internationalisation strategy. In December 2015, the company was awarded a PQQ Passport by the Department for Transport and has been pursuing franchise opportunities since then. The decision to invest in the UK was made on the basis of the market’s fundamental strength and potential for growth.

Barbara Morgante, CEO of Trenitalia, said: “We are closely monitoring the Railways Franchising Programme as we intend to participate in tenders issued by the DfT to strengthen our presence in UK.”

Trenitalia plans to retain the existing c2c management and staff, continue delivering the existing plans for the franchise, and has also committed to investing in further improvements.

National Express meanwhile, has not ruled out participating in future UK rail contracts, but sees further opportunities for growth in North America and continental Europe.

HS2 franchise info revealed
The DfT has published further details about the new rail franchise which combines operating and improving Inter City West Coast services with developing and introducing HS2 services in 2026. Details are on www.gov.uk.

The new West Coast Partnership franchise starts on 1 April 2019, but a short 12 month contract will be required to run West Coast Mainline services after the current franchise ends in 2018.

Passenger satisfaction with rail takes a tumble
The latest rail passenger satisfaction figures from Transport Focus, show that passenger satisfaction has declined nationally from 83% to 81% since Autumn 2015. The proportion of passengers happy with punctuality/ reliability fell even further from 78% to 73%.

Individual train operating companies earned passenger satisfaction levels that varied between 65% and 97%, with Hull Trains coming out on top and Southern, which has been badly affected by industrial action, bringing up the rear.

Jacqueline Starr, Rail Delivery Group MD of Customer Experience, said: “After decades of under-investment and with passenger numbers soaring to 4.5m a day on thousands more trains, the railway is full in many places. While we build the bigger, better railway the country needs there will be some disruption.”

Freight train derailment causes severe damage to track at Lewisham
Lewisham derailmentRail services in the South East were thrown into chaos on 24 January when a freight train derailed at Lewisham, south east London. The incident occurred at around 5.30am between Hither Green and Lewisham stations when the two rear wagons of a 1km-long 18 wagon freight train left the tracks. No people were on board the train other than the driver. Rail engineers worked around the clock to re-rail the two wagons so the train could be moved. Extensive damage was discovered to both track and signalling, which resulted in a 50m stretch of railway being completely rebuilt. While the engineering work was completed some services were diverted to run from London Victoria and others from London Blackfriars.

Andy Derbyshire, chief operating officer for Network Rail’s South East route, said: “We need to completely rebuild more than 50m of railway from the foundations up, just a few metres from one of the busiest railway lines in the south east. This is a significant job but we’ll be working round-the-clock until the work is done and trains are back up and running for passengers.”

 

Japanese Mitsui becomes Abellio’s JV partner in the Greater Anglia franchise
Abellio has signed an agreement to sell 40% of the Greater Anglia rail franchise to Mitsui, pending final regulatory approvals. It is the culmination of what the company says is a long-standing search for a suitable partner with whom to run Greater Anglia in a 60:40 joint venture.
Mitsui & Abellio
Abellio will continue to have a majority stake in the business and be in overall control. The franchise agreement will see £1.4bn in investment over the next nine years, with the introduction of a completely new fleet and a commitment to cut average journey times by 10%.

Mitsui is a global conglomerate with business interests in numerous sectors, including infrastructure, integrated transportation systems, energy, and IT and communications. This is the first time a Japanese company has become a shareholder of a British train operating company.

The two companies have a proven track record of working together, having entered into a joint venture to bid for the West Midlands rail franchise in 2016, along with East Japan Railway Company. Abellio won the Greater Anglia franchise in 2012 and renewed it in August 2016.

IN BRIEF
Solar farm to power Australian trams
The government of Victoria is to call for tenders in the first half of 2017 for the construction of a solar power farm, with part of the output to power the Melbourne tram network. The 75 MW solar farm will be completed by the end of 2018, and around 35 MW will be used by Yarra Trams.

Virgin excellence recognised
Virgin Trains has won two awards at this year’s Business Travel awards. The train operator was voted Best Rail Operator and also awarded Best Travel Technology Product for BEAM – an onboard entertainment app. The judges praised BEAM for bringing on-board train entertainment to in-flight levels.

Trenitalia to bid with FirstGroup
FirstGroup and Trenitalia UK Limited are planning to bid together for the East Midlands and West Coast Partnership rail franchises, due to be awarded in 2018. Trenitalia is the passenger rail transportation part of FS Italiane Group. The joint venture First Trenitalia East Midlands Rail Limited has now submitted an expression of interest in the East Midlands rail franchise.

BIM app to help Crossrail manage assets
Development has begun on a unique mobile platform for Crossrail, designed to manage its maintainable assets. Based on 3D Repo’s cloud-based open source collaboration platform, the app will bring together previously disparate databases and information sources to provide on-site, instant access, to both historical and real-time information.

Crackdown on bad behaviour
Responding to feedback from customers and staff, London Midland has deployed extra security on some of its trains, to crack down on antisocial behaviour. 162 people were stopped from boarding one Friday night London to Northampton service and 26 penalty fares were issued to people travelling without tickets. Services through Birmingham were also monitored.

Station retail sales are booming
New figures from Network Rail reveal that overall station retail sales over the Christmas period grew by 9.5% compared to last year. Birmingham New Street performed best with a sales growth of 26%. This compares favourably with the high street which, according to the British Retail Consortium’s Sales Monitor, achieved just 1% growth in December.

Planning approved for new station
Planning approval has been granted for a new station on the Ormskirk branch of Merseyrail’s Northern Line. The new Maghull North station will be located between Maghull and Town Green stations. Work on the £13m scheme is due to start in August 2017, with the station opening planned for May 2018.

Plans for East Coast Main Line
Network Rail has submitted a Transport and Works Act Order to the Secretary of State for Transport for plans to reinstate the fourth track between Huntingdon and Woodwalton on the East Coast Main Line. If approved, it will remove a critical bottleneck between London and the North, easing congestion on the line and allowing faster trains to overtake slower ones.