East Anglia Franchise

East Anglia Franchise

The East Anglia franchise is a railway franchise for passenger trains on the Great Eastern Main Line and West Anglia Main Lines in England. It commenced operating in April 2004 when the Anglia and Great Eastern franchises, together with the West Anglia part of the West Anglia Great Northern franchise, were combined to form the Greater Anglia franchise.

Initially operated by National Express East Anglia, in February 2012 it was taken over by Greater Anglia. In May 2015 the Liverpool Street to Chingford/Cheshunt and Enfield Town and Romford to Upminster services transferred to London Overground, and the Liverpool Street to Shenfield services transferred to TfL Rail. Upon being re-tendered in 2016, it was retained by Abellio and rebranded Greater Anglia as specified by the Department for Transport.

East Anglia Franchise History

In 2002, as part of a franchise reorganisation by the Strategic Rail Authority, it was announced the Anglia and Great Eastern franchises together with the West Anglia part of the West Anglia Great Northern franchise would be combined to form the Greater Anglia franchise.

This was part of a Strategic Rail Authority strategy to reduce the number of train operating companies providing services from a single London terminal. This was expected to improve efficiency and reliability.

East Anglia Franchise April 2004 to February 2012

In April 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority announced Arriva, GB Railways and National Express had been shortlisted to bid for the new franchise.

In December 2003 the Strategic Rail Authority awarded the franchise to National Express. With the services operated by Anglia Railways, First Great Eastern and West Anglia Great Northern transferred to One on 1 April 2004.

The franchise was run until March 2011, with provision for a three-year extension to 2014 if performance targets were met. The franchise was originally branded as One before being rebranded as National Express East Anglia in February 2008 as part of a company wide rebranding programme.

In November 2009, the Department for Transport announced National Express was to lose the Greater Anglia franchise in March 2011 rather than be granted an extension to operate it until March 2014. The decision followed National Express defaulting on the National Express East Coast franchise even though National Express East Anglia had met all of its targets required for the franchise to be extended.

In June 2010 following the 2010 general election, the Department for Transport announced the replacement process for the franchise would be put on hold pending a review of the franchising process resulting in an extension until February 2012 being granted.

East Anglia Franchise February 2012 to October 2016

When tendering restarted, it was for a short-term franchise which would give the government time to plan changes in rail franchising policy based on Roy McNulty's Rail Value for Money Study. It also covered the period of the 2012 Olympic Games. The franchise was originally to run from 5 February 2012 until July 2014.

In March 2011, the Department for Transport announced Abellio, Go Ahead and Stagecoach had been shortlisted for the new franchise, with the Invitation to Tender issued in April 2011. In October 2011, the franchise was awarded to Abellio with the services operated by National Express East Anglia transferred to Greater Anglia on 5 February 2012.

In March 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport announced the franchise would be extended until 15 October 2016. However, on 31 May 2015 the Liverpool Street to Chingford/Cheshunt and Enfield Town and Romford to Upminster services transferred to London Overground and the Liverpool Street to Shenfield services to TfL Rail.

In late 2013, Greater Anglia was rebranded as Abellio Greater Anglia.

East Anglia Franchise October 2016 to 2026

The process of tendering for the new franchise began on 19 February 2015 with the franchise renamed the East Anglia franchise.

In June 2015, an Abellio (60%)/Stagecoach (40%) joint venture, FirstGroup and National Express were shortlisted to bid for the franchise. On 9 December 2015 it was announced that Stagecoach had pulled out of the joint bid with Abellio, and that Abellio would continue the bid alone.

In August 2016, it was announced that Abellio had successfully bid to operate the new franchise running from 16 October 2016 until 11 October 2025. A franchise commitment is to replace the entire fleet with 1,043 new carriages. Bombardier Transportation's Derby Litchurch Lane Works will build 665 Class 720 Aventra electric multiple unit vehicles, while 378 Class 745 and Class 755 Stadler Flirt electric multiple unit carriages will work between London and Norwich, and London and Stansted Airport.

The franchise was rebranded back to Greater Anglia on 16 October 2016 as specified in the franchise contract. In March 2017 Abellio sold a 40% stake in the business to Mitsui.

In 2021, following the COVID-19 emergency measures, Greater Anglia was given a direct award contract, replacing its franchise agreement, expiring on 20 September 2026.

East Anglia Franchise Requirements

The invitation to tender was published on 17 September 2015 and included the following requirements.

  • introduce 180 additional weekly services, running on Mondays to Sundays to stations including Cambridge, Norwich, Stansted Airport, Southend and London Liverpool Street
  • introduce two 90-minute services in each direction between Norwich and London
  • improve the quality of trains running on East Anglia's network, providing a modern service with state of the art trains; extra points will be awarded to bidders who include plans to trial new technologies in rolling stock
  • introduce free Wi-Fi for all passengers across the network
  • meet "challenging targets" to reduce crowding on the busiest services
  • introduce one 60-minute service in each direction between Ipswich and London

East Anglia Franchise Overview

East Anglia Franchise Current operator: Greater Anglia
East Anglia Franchise Main Route(s): Great Eastern Main Line
West Anglia Main Line

East Anglia Franchise Dates of Operation:
1 April 2004 – 4 February 2012 (National Express East Anglia)
5 February 2012 – 20 September 2026 (Greater Anglia)


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