Abellio took over operation of the East Midlands franchise from Stagecoach on 18 August, launching the East Midlands Railway operation the following day. The EMR franchise will run until August 2027, with an optional two-year extension callable at the Secretary of State’s discretion.
The company promises more than £600 million of improvements during the franchise term. Key to this will be the replacement of the entire train fleet with more than 340 carriages. EMR has ordered 33×5-car bi-mode trains from Hitachi for Midland main line services from Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham to St Pancras; the first train is due to begin testing in 2021 with the full fleet in service by December 2022. A cascaded fleet of 21×4-car Class 360 EMUs will operate Corby to St Pancras electric services and Cl 17x Turbostar units in two-car and three-car formations will be deployed on regional services.
In the short-term, nine Class 156s from Greater Anglia will bolster the regional fleet for the December 2019 timetable, allowing all services to be formed of at least two carriages, while Class 180 DMUs transferred from Hull Trains will enter service during 2020. These will begin displacement of HSTs on inter-city services, with all due to be withdrawn by the end of 2020.
Abellio is introducing three operating brands of ‘EMR Intercity’, ‘EMR Electrics’ and ‘EMR Regional’, with the aim being to provide a more consistent offer for passengers, covering trains, timetables and stations. It promises investment of £20 million in stations, with larger schemes at Leicester, Nottingham and Derby and six stations to become ‘eco stations’.
From the start of the franchise a ‘price promise’ and Delay Repay 15 compensation have been introduced, with extension of smart and mobile ticketing and flexible season tickets promised in 2020. A consistent catering offer on the EMR Intercity service is planned to include an at-seat service throughout the week, including in first class. Other initiatives include a trial of hydrogen fuel cell trains on the Midland main line and the signing of an alliance agreement between EMR and Network Rail, to be deepened as the franchise progresses.