THE Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded Abellio the East Anglian rail franchise, it has been announced.

Abellio has run the franchise since 2012 and has had its contract extended to 2025.

The new deal is worth £1.4 billion.

The service, which has been renamed Abellio East Anglia, has promised to provide four 90 minute services between Norwich and London and two 60 minute services between London and Ipswich each day.

This means trains between Colchester and London within 40 minutes are "within reach".

It has also pledged to replace all trains on the network with 1,040 new carriages and to cut journey times by ten per cent.

Free Wi-Fi will also be provided on all trains and at stations.

The new trains will be built at the Bombardier factory in Derby at a cost of £1 billion, creating 1,000 jobs for the next decade.

They are due to be in place between January 2019 and September 2020.

Abellio, which has run the franchise since 2012, has calculated there will be more than 32,000 extra seats on trains arriving at Liverpool Street in the morning peak.

MP for Colchester, Will Quince, said the announcement was "not the end of the story" for commuters.

He welcomed the pledge for new rolling stock, free Wi-Fi and extra seats, but said: "There is much that Abellio can do to improve services now.

"Our trains are often dirty with litter strewn across the carriage, and their communications are unreliable with different staff giving you different reasons for delays. Abellio should deal with these problems now.

"However, we also need to be clear that all too often, they are blamed for delays which are not their fault. Around 60% of delays are the fault of Network Rail, and with the Norwich in 90 pledge being emphasised as part of this announcement, we now need them to deliver.

"I will be pushing the Government into committing funding for the necessary infrastructure improvements which we need, whether it is the works at Bow Junction to increase the number of services able to travel in and out of Liverpool Street or the new passing loop at Witham.

"The biggest complaint that I have heard since this announcement was made is 'we don’t believe it will be delivered'. That is why my priority now is holding their feet to the fire and ensuring they stick to their promises."

Braintree and Witham Times:

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era. By awarding this franchise to Abellio East Anglia we will improve journeys for people in East Anglia.

"Abellio’s decision will ensure our train building industry in Derby remains strong.

"This is part of our plan to make an economy that works for everyone – not just the privileged few – by ensuring prosperity is spread throughout the country."

Dominic Booth managing director of Abellio UK said: "This is great news not only for Abellio but for the whole of East Anglia. We are pleased to become preferred bidder to deliver a transformation in rail services across the region.

"It will enable us to build on the successes of the two short East Anglian franchises we have run since 2012, and we commend the DfT in running a transparent and rigorous procurement process.

"Our plans will greatly improve our customers’ experience with faster and more reliable journeys on new trains with higher frequencies and reduced journey times, to support the socio-economic well-being of East Anglia, one of the country’s most successful and fastest growing areas."

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MP for Witham, Priti Patel, who was a member of the Rail Task Force which proposed improvements to the service, has welcomed the investment.

She said: "Commuters have suffered from poor services for too long but the new nine year franchise agreed by the Government should lead to real improvements for commuters.

"I have campaigned with commuters, businesses and colleagues in Parliament for new trains, high performance services and better passenger facilities and welcome the commitments that have been given in the new franchise."

"This new franchise makes big investment promises from Abellio and commuters will expect to start seeing improvements as soon as possible.

"I will continue to work with commuters to ensure the improvements promised are delivered. We now need to see Network Rail announce their investment plans so that we can get the new rail infrastructure needed to support new trains, better services and improved performance."

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP and co-chair of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce (GEML), which campaigned for rail improvements, said:

"To have secured new state of the art rolling stock is a massive win for all those who depend on a reliable and high performing railway here in the East.

“We presented the government with a compelling case for  transformational improvements to our mainline railway. We provided solid evidence for the potential £4.5bn boost to the economy and 50,000 new jobs across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.

"The award of the franchise to Abellio marks the beginning of realising that ambition. It brings the promised Norwich in 90, Ipswich in 60, Colchester in 40 within reach, and our work continues to secure a consistently high standard of rail service for everyone.

“We congratulate Abellio on their success, and look forward to meeting them very soon to hear the full detail of their plans for all routes across the East."

David Burch, Director of Policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce and member of the GEML Taskforce, said: "I am delighted that at long last we have an announcement of the franchise results and congratulate Abellio on submitting a successful bid.

"The proposals for new carriages is extremely welcome along with the increase in seating capacity.

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"This is a vote of confidence in the economies of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk and will do much to boost future economic growth. Some big promises have been made for future delivery and we will be monitoring those closely to ensure that the businesses and rail passengers of Essex at long last get the rail services they deserve."