The contract now starting at Liverpool St has been re-awarded. To Holland’s little-loved Abellio

Abellio train on the Greater Anglia route takes off from Hackney Downs London E8 110816 © david.altheer at
Castlemaine-Maldon steam train run by volunteers enters Castlemain station Victoria Australia 201113 ©
Above, not one of the trains being considered by Abellio, top: the service is at least a little more up to date than the Castlemaine-Maldon steamer in east Australia

THE POPULAR Liverpool Street to Stansted airport rail route is to continue to be run by the most-unpopular train operator, Abellio.

More passenger complaints have been made about the Dutch nationally owned operator than any other in the UK over the last year.

The Government has rejected rival bids by National Express and FirstGroup for the £1.4 billion contract for the East Anglia line, which branches beyond Stansted on to Cambridge, Norwich and elsewhere.

The line is much used by commuters from Hackney, Bethnal Green and Tottenham to take them to work in the City and by holidaymakers flying abroad form Stansted or taking time out in East Anglia.

That Abellio’s Greater Anglia route endured 57% more passenger complaints in 2015-2016 compared with a year earlier did not deter the government from renewing the contract for another nine years.

Walkway (right) Hackney Downs station to Hackney Central London E8 140815 ©
En route: Hackney Downs is a key station on Abellio’s Greater Anglia network

The company was also last year’s most-complained-about trains operator on Twitter: 72,861 tweets were classed as negative. 

In the run-up to the new deal, the operator has made enticing promises, including more carriages, 10% cuts in journey times and free wi-fi. 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling boasted that the Conservatives were making “the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era”.

Rail unions were not impressed. Commenting on the Government’s shortlist of firms asked to tender, Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, spoke of “the same old faces who’ve been milking the system for the past two decades, while delivering a lousy service”.

Some City analysts thought the deal could turn sour for Abellio because the franchise was bid for after the EU referendum but would thus be operated in a potentially softer UK economy. The two losing bidders might be happy, post Brexit that a competitor had been left with the franchise.

Hamish Scott 070816

* Backstory: Euro train avoids East London 

* Main pic shows the enthusiast-run service, from Castlemaine to Maldon in east Australia. All pictures on this page © DavidAltheer [at], and all for sale for reproduction. Most photographs are available in bigger formats

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