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James Brokenshire calls for ‘urgent improvements’ to Bexley rail services as he meets with franchise hopefuls

PUBLISHED: 13:16 11 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:16 11 September 2017

James Brokenshire

James Brokenshire

Archant

The government is expected to invite firms to bid on the franchise this month

A fresh call for ‘urgent improvements’ to the borough’s rail services has been made by MP James Brokenshire.

The Department for Transport is expected to put out an invitation to tender the south eastern rail franchise this month, meaning bids on the network will soon be on their way.

Earlier this year a consultation on the future of the franchise allowed passengers to have their say on issues surrounding the service.

The consultation gained controversy for suggesting the number of London terminals served by Bexley services could be cut down to one, from four, but the government quickly responded to concerns by saying it was “not proposing to cut specific services”.

In July, current franchise holders Southeastern, owned by Govia, came joint-third-bottom in a survey on overall passenger satisfaction, but 10 per cent more passengers were happier with the service than a year ago.

Govia is among five companies that have already expressed an interested in running the service, and last week Mr Brokenshire, Old Bexley and Sidcup’s MP, began talks with each of them.

Following his first meeting on Friday, Mr Brokenshire said: “There is no doubt passengers want to see urgent improvements to local train services with more reliable and comfortable travel.

“I am keen to impress upon those looking to take over the franchise the key issues of concerns so we can secure the changes on the south eastern network which passengers have been calling for.”

Interest has come from worldwide to take over the service when the contract runs out next year, including from Italian rail firm Trenitalia and a partnership between Dutch firm Abellio Transport Group Limited and East Japan Railway Company also on the cards.

As Mr Brokenshire meets the teams behind each bid, he has pointed out key areas to focus on, including “the continued provision of services into London Charing Cross, Cannon Street and Victoria, the possibility of a new London terminus at Blackfriars, better overall performance and reliability, and a better compensation system, that is fairer, easier and quicker to use.”

Once the government makes a decision, the new franchise will take over in December 2018.

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