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Airport’s bid for more rail services rejected


22 June 2018

The DfT has rejected a call from the owner of Luton Airport for more East Midlands trains to call at Luton Airport Parkway station. 

The station is currently served by Thameslink trains and just one East Midlands Trains service an hour. The airport wanted the DfT to increase East Midlands train services to four an hour in the new franchise, which is due to commence in August 2019. This would give the airport a regular 21-minute journey time service to St Pancras, as well as improving access from the north. 

The DfT consulted on the idea of extra Luton Airport calls at the expense of fewer calls at Luton or less capacity for freight. The Department has decided to retain the status quo, saying most respondents opposed change. 

The franchise specification features a second hourly train between London and Corby from December 2020, increasing East Midlands frequencies into/out of London St Pancras from five to six an hour. The operator will be required to introduce a fleet of bi-mode trains onto intercity routes beginning early 2022. 

Services will be increased to hourly on the Lincoln-Grimsby, Lincoln-Doncaster, and Lincoln-Peterborough lines, and an hourly service between Newark North Gate and Lincoln will be created by a two-hourly EMT service and a two-hourly East Coast service.

From December 2021 the Liverpool – Norwich service will be split at Nottingham, with the East Midlands franchise operating from Nottingham – Norwich and TransPennine Express the section from Liverpool to Nottingham. 

Shortlisted bidders for the franchise are Abellio, Stagecoach and Arriva. 

The selected operator will have to submit a business case to the DfT for re-opening the freight line between Shirebrook and Ollerton in Nottinghamshire to passengers. 

In its Beyond HS2 rail strategy published last month, Greengauge 21 said no extra capacity for rail freight should be provided between London and Leicester because of the capacity pressures from East Midlands Trains and Thameslink (LTT 08 Jun). The DfT says, however, that bidders should structure their timetables to provide extra off-peak capacity for freight between Kettering and Kilby Bridge Junction, just south of Leicester.

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