Stagecoach will pay Government £150 million to continue to operate East Midlands Trains from October 18 until March 4 2018.
It will invest £13m in improvements ahead of the new franchise beginning in 29 months, although there is an option for the Department for Transport to extend the new deal by a year.
EMT Managing Director Jake Kelly said: “This is great news for customers and taxpayers. Over the past eight years, we have demonstrated our commitment to providing the best possible service for our customers. The agreement with the Department for Transport will now allow us to invest even further in the areas that matter most to our customers.
“As well as improvements to stations and our on-board service, we’ll also be rolling out new technology to make journeys even easier. At the same time, we’ll be offering better value for money by cutting the cost of thousands of fares and launching our biggest ticket seat sale, all designed to offer big improvements for millions of East Midlands Trains customers.”
Improvements include 22 extra services between Nottingham and Newark Castle on Saturdays by December 2016, timetable improvements to improve journey times between Nottingham and Lincoln on Saturdays, and a freeze on all Anytime fares to London with ticket prices remaining at the same level as now until 2017. This is in addition to the Government’s commitment to cap all other regulated rail fares at RPI inflation for the next five years,
Fifteen additional automatic ticket machines will be installed across the network, better customer information is promised with a new mobile app that will also allow ticket purchases, and information screens will be installed at key stations including London St Pancras, Leicester, Derby and Sheffield.
Some £1m is being invested in improving accessibility at stations, along with 29 new accessible help points at unstaffed stations, linked to a 24-hour customer contact centre. A better Passenger Assistance scheme will be introduced so that customers who need assistance only need to book 12 hours in advance, rather than 24 hours, and there will be an improved online compensation system for passengers who are delayed.
EMT said local communities will gain from the new deal, with an extra £250,000 invested in community rail, the introduction of a new schools education programme, and continued investment in apprenticeships and graduate schemes.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “This is a great deal for East Midlands Trains customers, and will mean significantly better journeys for passengers travelling around the region.”
EMT will upgrade on-board WiFi on London services to 4G, with the aim that this will be free to all passengers when the next franchise starts from 2018. It will also extend the catering offer on Liverpool-Norwich trains, and improve the cleanliness of trains.
“This is a significant package of investment for customers travelling on East Midlands Trains, Britain’s most punctual long-distance train operator,” said Stagecoach Group Chief Executive Martin Griffiths.
“It will build on what our team has achieved over the past eight years, and deliver further valuable improvements for the millions of passengers and many communities who rely on the East Midlands Trains network.
“Britain’s railway is part of the fabric of our communities - that is why our plans include more opportunities for graduates and young people, new links with schools, greater investment in community rail, and improved training to help our employees deliver a first class service to customers.”
Around 26 million journeys are made on East Midlands Trains every year. Last year EMT won RAIL’s National Rail Awards Passenger Operator of the Year award.
Stagecoach is also bidding for the TransPennine Express franchise, with the winner announced in December. It is also part of a 60/40 joint bid with Abellio for the Greater Anglia franchise.