Business leaders welcome ‘exciting’ £600m investment into rail franchise

The news that Dutch firm Abellio is to take over the running of the East Midlands Main Line services from the East Midlands to London has been welcomed by local business leaders.

Stagecoach’s franchise will end in August, with Abellio taking on the responsibility for running services until 2027. The company says it will invest £600m into the trains and stations.

Chris Hobson, director of policy at East Midlands Chamber, said: “The new franchise includes exciting plans to improve passenger comfort, seat numbers, free wifi, more car and cycle parking and new trains, including trialling hydrogen-powered stock. We will continue, however, to press the Department for Transport for full electrification of the Midland Main Line so that we can enjoy lighter, cleaner, greener trains and closer integration with HS2 along the route.

“We look forward to working with the new franchisee to build on the positive work that’s been done in the region in recent times and deliver a service fit for business growth over the next decade.”

Abellio says it will introduce new rolling stock, entirely replacing the existing intercity fleet with “more reliable and comfortable” trains. The firm says it will implement an 80% increase in the number of morning peak seats into Nottingham, Lincoln and St Pancras.

Abellio will also trial hydrogen fuel cell trains on the Midland Main Line and will run zero-carbon pilots at six stations along the route.

Sir John Peace

Midlands Connect chairman Sir John Peace said: “Midlands Connect met with all of the franchise bidders during the process, and Abellio’s vision shows a strong commitment to significantly improve passengers’ experience, with new and improved trains, more seats and more frequent services, upgraded stations and smart ticketing options.

“We fully support the move towards a cleaner, greener rail network and we welcome plans to trial hydrogen fuel cell trains on the Midland Main Line (MML). We will also continue to make the case for the electrification of the MML beyond Market Harborough, to support Midlands Connect’s ambition for direct conventional compatible HS2 services between Leicester and Leeds and Nottingham and Leeds, via the East Midlands Hub at Toton.

“With rail passenger numbers increasing year on year in the East Midlands, it is extremely encouraging to see investment in the region’s railways starting to match that demand.”