UK: Abellio officially launched East Midlands Railway as the new operator of the East Midlands franchise on August 19, the day after it formally took over from Stagecoach which had operated the services for 11 years under the East Midlands Trains brand.

More than £600m is to be spent on enhancements across the new franchise, which runs to August 21 2027 with the Department for Transport having an option for a two-year extension.

The services are to be operated under three sub-brands.

EMR Intercity will be used for long-distance Midland Main Line services between Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicester and London. The current inter-city fleet of diesel HSTs and Bombardier Class 222 Meridian DEMUs is to be replaced by 33 five-car Hitachi 200 km/h electro-diesel trainsets from 2022. Other plans include an increase in services, shorter journey times and a doubling of capacity into London to take account of growing travel demand.

The franchise’s east–west and regional services in central England are to be branded EMR Regional.

A new electric service between London St Pancras, Luton Airport Parkway, Bedford, Kettering, Wellingborough and Corby will be branded EMR Electrics. This is to be operated using refurbished Siemens Class 360 EMUs, and will have its own website, ‘easier’ ticketing and a dedicated platform at St Pancras. EMR said that once various developments had been completed, passengers would be able to reach the terminal at Luton Airport in ‘a little under half an hour’ from central London.

Other planned enhancements include the provision of more cycle and car parking spaces, the roll-out of smart ticketing by 2020, and £20m of station upgrades including additional seating and better lounge areas at London St Pancras.

‘Abellio’s exciting plans for East Midlands Railway will make a real difference to passengers, delivering state-of-the-art trains with more seats, station improvements and trialling hydrogen fuel cell technology to ensure that East Midlands Railway becomes one of the most environmentally-friendly in the UK’, said Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris. ‘This investment will also lead to more punctual journeys for passengers and play a major role in building a railway that’s fit for the future.’