Monday, 30 November 2009

Colchester Station Fares Badly In Review

In a government sponsored report called Better Rail Stations, Colchester station comes 12th from bottom nationally when it comes to customer satisfaction with a score of only 52%.

The report calls for a minimum level of standards with a satisfaction target rate of 80%. Improvements to be considered across the board include standard format station signs to prevent wasteful rebranding at franchise changes and a strategy to drive 60% more income from station retailing which the report suggests could be worth £44 million per year across the country.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Manifesto For The Successor To NXEA

The Essex Rail Users Federation (ERUF) is compiling a 'manifesto' of requirements and expectations of the successor to National Express East Anglia. This manifesto will be presented to local MPs and the Department for Transport as the latter prepares to go out to tender for the new franchise.

If there any any particular points you would like to see included please contact your local Rail User Group or alternatively you can contact the ERUF direct at

Friday, 27 November 2009

Who Might Take Over From NXEA?

Last night three major rail operators said they would be interested in bidding for the current NXEA franchise. FirstGroup, who ran the First Great Eastern franchise prior to National Express, Virgin and Stagecoach have all indicated an interest.

However, they have all said that any decision on a potential bid will be subject to the terms of the franchise as advertised by the Department of Transport.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Sunday Service From Walton to Colchester Town - Reminder

A reminder that this coming Sunday (29th) sees the start of a trial service providing trains between Walton On The Naze and Colchester Town. There will be an hourly service running between the two stations on the next four Sundays (29th Nov, 6th, 13th and 20th Dec) leading up to Christmas.

NXEA To Lose Franchise Early

The government has this morning announced that National Express East Anglia (NXEA) will be losing their franchise in March 2011. Although this is actually the original end date of the franchise the company had been looking forward to a three year extension to 2014 having met the prerequisite performance targets. However, the recent failure of the East Coast franchise has meant that National Express (NX) were likely to lose the NXEA business too. There were rumours that the Department for Transport (DfT) wanted to strip NX of the NXEA and C2C franchises with immediate effect but they have since decided against this. (The C2C business is up for renewal in May 2011)

The DfT have stated that the process for securing a new operator would start immediately so that a new franchise could begin in April 2011.

An interesting footnote to the timing of the end of the franchise is how close it is to the 2012 Olympics which some may see as inconvenient to say the least.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Online Plans Of Stations

Network Rail now provide an online plan of stations on the rail network. For details of stations within the Essex Rail Users Federation membership, click on the appropriate station below:
Hovering over the individual icons shown on the plan will provide the relevant photo.

For other stations go to the Network Rail website, enter the station name in the Search box; Click on the relevant station name that comes up and then on Stations Made Easy

Monday, 23 November 2009

Oyster Pay As You Go To Be Extended

From 2 January 2010 all National Express East Anglia stations within the Greater London area (zones 1-6) will accept Oyster pay as you go cards. On the Great Eastern line this means all stations from Harold Wood into Liverpool Street.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

NXEA Vision For Rail Services Between London and Norwich

National Express East Anglia has set out its vision of services on the London to Norwich mainline. Speaking at the conference Shaping Norfolk's Future, NXEA's managing director Andrew Chivers highlighted the three main areas to be addressed: Quicker journey times between Norwich and London with the fastest service taking only 1 hour 30 mins; new Inter-City trains; and further improvements to the railway infrastructure, including tracks and signalling.

Ironically some of the improvements, such as new trains, will come into service beyond the end of the current franchise in 2011 which may see another operator running the service. However, the planning does need to start now. In the short term, the widely publicised increase in capacity on commuter routes will continue with the ongoing addition of 'hand me down' trains to the Class 321 fleet enabling many services to be lengthened. NXEA will also be looking, at last, to installing WiFi services on their Inter City fleet.

The time taken by London - Norwich trains at the moment is dictated by many things: Busy commuter routes into London hindered by there only being four tracks as far as Shenfield; Very few passing loops (Places for trains to pass) beyond Shenfield; Speeds limited to a maximum of 100mph; the number of station stops made on each journey. To achieve the goal of a 1 hour 30 min journey between Norwich and London some of the above, if not all, will need to be addressed.

New trains for the London - Norwich route will be a very welcome change to the tradition on this line of taking elderly, second hand trains off somebody else's hands.

Changes to the infrastructure will take considerably longer to implement but may include a passing loop at the new station proposed near Boreham and even extending four tracks beyond Shenfield, possibly as part of the CrossRail project.

Of concern to Manningtree, Colchester and Chelmsford passengers is the possibility of fewer Inter City trains stopping at these stations to improve overall journey times and as such the ERUF will be monitoring developments closely.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Government Changes Lead To Passengers Paying More

In the week that next year's fare increases are announced across the country the Campaign For Better Transport has highlighted the fact in a report that passengers are actually paying considerably more as a consequence of changes to the rules regarding fare increases.

Traditionally, regulated fare increases were capped at the Retail Price Index (RPI) minus 1. However in 2003 the government changed this to RPI plus 1. This was done as part of the government desire to have rail passengers pay a greater share of the costs of the rail network.

As a result of this change to the rules passengers in our region are paying considerably more - examples as follows:
  • Chelmsford - Liverpool Street £354 (13% more)
  • Colchester - Liverpool Street £571 (17% more)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

NXEA Among The Worst For Customer Satisfaction

In the latest government rail review National Express East Anglia scored just 61% for customer satisfaction placing it 14th out of 18 operators nationally. London Midland, First Capital Connect, Northern Rail and London Overground are the only operators to score lower.

Somewhat ironically National Express East Coast, the franchise taken over by the government at the weekend, came top with a score of 78%.

Monday, 16 November 2009

National Express To Freeze Unregulated Fares

National Express East Anglia will be freezing all unregulated fares in the new year. The national average for fare increases is 1.1%

Regulated fares such as season tickets will reduce by 0.4%

Adonis Critical Of NX Retaining Franchise

Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis has said it is "unacceptable" for National Express to retain its remaining franchises having given up the East Coast main line at the weekend.

Regarding NXEA and C2C National Express said it "continued to meet all its contractual obligations for the East Anglia and C2C franchises". However, Lord Adonis said in a BBC interview "I regard it as unacceptable and not the way to treat the government that they seek to give up their loss-making franchise.... but keep the ones that are profitable."

Unregulated Fares To Increase by Average of 1.1%

The Association Of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has announced that unregulated fares such as cheap day returns are to increase by an average of 1.1% in the new year. This is the lowest increase since privatisation.

Regulated tickets such as season tickets are set to decrease by 0.4% as a consequence of these prices being tied to the RPI which has fallen.

Friday, 13 November 2009

National Express Lose East Coast Franchise Tonight

At one minute to midnight tonight the government take control of the National Express East Coast franchise. This will leave National Express with just the NXEA and C2C franchises, both of which the government are said to want to also strip from them as a consequence of the East Coast failure.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

National Express To Lose NXEA Franchise Early?

Hidden in the small print of the National Express rights issue document is an admission by the group that its default on the East Coast franchise means that it will "lose the right automatically" to the three year extension to the NXEA franchise. Any extension will now be "at the sole discretion of the Department for Transport".

Under the current terms of the NXEA franchise it will be extended by three years from 2011 if the company meets certain performance targets. It is currently meeting those targets.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Rail Travel Too Expensive For Network Rail

Network trail is transporting 200 of its staff from Reading to a conference in Coventry by coach because going by rail would be too expensive. If open return tickets were bought at £135 per head it would cost £27,000, so the company has opted for the coach alternative which comes in at £12 a head - a saving of £24,000!

Surely a lesson there somewhere....

National Express Announces £350m Rights Issue

National Express Group has announced a £350m rights issue in an attempt to shore up its debt laden balance sheet. Interestingly this move does not appear to have the support of its largest shareholder, the Cosmen family, who own 18% of the business.

National Express this week hand back their East Coast franchise and it is reported that the Department for Transport is still determined to strip the group of its East Anglian (NXEA) and C2C franchises. However the group said this morning that it would fight any such attempt that would effectively remove it from the UK rail business.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

East Coast Line To Be Nationalised Ahead of Schedule

The Department for Transport (DfT) have announced that they will now be taking over the National Express East Coast franchise shortly before midnight on 13th November, earlier then expected.

Media reports are suggesting that Lord Adonis, Minister for Transport, is still determined to strip National Express of its East Anglia and C2C franchises, but the DfT is still taking legal advice on whether this can be done.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Govt. To Run East Coast Franchise From December 12th

National Express will be handing back their East Coast franchise to the government on December 12th. The new service will be called East Coast Main Line and will remain under government control until mid 2011, longer than originally expected. All mention of National Express will be removed from stations and trains and staff uniforms will be 'upgraded'.

Last summer the government said it believed that it might have grounds to terminate the NXEA and C2C franchises as a consequence of the East Coast failure and that all options were being explored. This appears to still be the case.