A long-awaited key decision on the future of the East of England's railways is the latest casualty of the Euro referendum result, said Cambridge Labour MP Daniel Zeichner. The East Anglia rail franchise contract was supposed to be awarded by the Department for Transport in June 2016, but the winner of the bid is still yet to be announced – two months later.
The end of the old franchise agreement and the start of the new franchise agreement is due in October 2016, leaving very little time for transition. Industry insiders say that contracts are being re-priced following the referendum, currency changes, and the change of Government.
In a debate on the East Anglia rail franchise in December 2015 then Rail Minister Claire Perry made bold promises: “I am confident that the winning bidder for this franchise will deliver huge, tangible, transformational improvements that are commensurate with the economic weight of the region. We will see route improvements, and we have set out what we expect as a minimum. However, this is not set in stone; this is a starting point. When the franchise starts up next October, there will be every opportunity to change routes, add additional service patterns or new stations—that has happened across the country—improve timetables, and deliver better scheduled services.”
Companies in the running are First Group, National Express, and the current franchise-holder – Abellio.
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge said: “The delay in awarding the Cambridge to Liverpool Street rail franchise contract is yet another unforeseen consequence of the vote on June 23rd. Few voters would have imagined they were voting to put at risk such long-awaited improvements to vital rail services. The new franchise agreement is meant to start in a matter of weeks, and a decision must be announced urgently to ensure a smooth transition and to avoid ongoing uncertainty for rail passengers and workers alike."