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Abellio beats out First Group again to run East Anglia rail

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Dutch firm Abellio beat out rival First Group to land the East Anglia rail franchise from the Department for Transport (DfT).

FirstGroup said it was “disappointed” not to have been awarded the franchise after submitting a “compelling, deliverable, and value for money bid”.

It added: “We continue to be disciplined in our approach to bidding for UK rail contracts and will seek feedback from the Department for Transport to help shape our approach to future competitions.”

First’s UK rail arm has suffered a string of disappointments in recent years, including the failure to retain the ScotRail franchise it had held for 10 years – which it lost Abellio in 2014.

Aberdeen-based FirstGroup also lost the iconic Caledonian Sleeper service to Serco, the Thameslink franchise covering London’s commuter routes to joint venture between Go-Ahead and Keolis and missed out on a bid for the East Coast mainline service to Stagecoach and Virgin.

But last year it was boosted by the retention of the Transpennine Express rail franchise, which links the largest cities in the north of England and Scotland, until at least 2023.

Abellio’s franchise agreement will include a £1.4billion investment in rail services on the route, covering trains from London to the East Anglia region and will include further services between Norwich and London and a cut to average journey times.

Scotrail operator Abellio also pledged to add 1,040 carriages to the service, which will be built at the Derby plant of Canadian engineer Bombardier.

Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, said: “Our plans will greatly improve our customers’ experience with faster and more reliable journeys on new trains with higher frequencies and reduced journey times, to support the socio-economic well-being of East Anglia, one of the country’s most successful and fastest growing areas.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling added: “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era. By awarding this franchise to Abellio East Anglia we will improve journeys for people in East Anglia.”

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