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East Midlands Rail Franchise

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:44 am on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 10:44 am, 11th April 2019

There are a lot of questions there. First, Stagecoach has acknowledged to the Department that it had bid non-compliantly. We have received offers from other bidders in all competitions that are fully compliant in providing the required pension arrangements for railway workers so, to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question on whether this means the bid process is failing and others are refusing, clearly they are not because we have a compliant bid that won in good form.

Stagecoach is an experienced bidder and fully aware of the franchise competition rules, so it is regrettable that it submitted a non-compliant bid that breached the established rules. In doing so, Stagecoach is responsible for its own disqualification. Bidders were invited to bid on the basis of a pension deficit recovery mechanism. They knew that at the very start of the process. Stagecoach did not accept it and made some amendments as it submitted the bid. On what would happen if all companies refuse, clearly, by definition, they are not all refusing, so the question does not apply.

We will see an entirely new fleet of trains—a full replacement fleet—come into service. Inter-city services will receive new bi-mode trains, and regional services will receive new diesel trains. The express fleet, which is the Corby-Bedford-London service, will receive new electric trains that offer significantly enhanced environmental improvements.

What is interesting in this franchise is that we will see the first trial of a hydrogen-powered train. [Hon. Members: “When?”] In terms of timing, we will see the new trains coming into service in a phased way. We hope to see the first trains coming in next year, and so on over the next three years.

The bidding process was conducted in a fair and consistent way, applying the rules of engagement equally to all bidders. We have provided feedback to those who have not been successful. The reasons are always commercially confidential. Losing bidders may publicise them if they wish, but we will not do that because they are commercially confidential. The key thing that we are seeing here is a franchise awarded in the typical way that franchises are awarded in our rail industry, delivering passenger benefits.