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Southeastern is going to keep on runnning the train network in Kent until 2018. It's had its franchise extended but will have to meet stricter performance targets and invest millions in customer service and station maintenance.
Tough performance targets to ensure rail passengers see real improvements to their journeys have been agreed as part of a new franchise deal between the government and Southeastern today (11 September).
The deal means Southeastern will continue to operate services between London, Kent and parts of East Sussex until June 2018, and make major improvements to customer service, passenger satisfaction and train punctuality across their network. The deal will include more than £70million investment in better customer information systems, additional staff and maintenance to stations and trains along the route.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said:
"I know passengers on this route haven't always received the service that they deserve, which is why I am absolutely determined that today marks a fresh start for the Southeastern franchise. This decision has been taken after careful work by the Department for Transport with Go-Ahead Plc, to ensure that the franchise can genuinely improve its services against a challenging backdrop of vital improvements to the tracks and stations on which their trains operate.
"Given these challenges, we believe that continuing the franchise rather than entering into a new one at this point will provide passengers with the best service for the next three years as well as offering the best value to all of us who help fund the railway through our taxes.
"But I am determined that through this contract passengers will get more seats on improved trains, better journey connections, upgraded stations and overall more focus on their needs in London and the South East with the change starting from today. My job, and the job of the Department, is now to make sure that Southeastern delivers."
The contract will deliver thousands of extra seats, new services between key destinations, and a commitment to roll out Oyster to additional stations.
Southeastern will work with Network Rail and other operators on a major rebuild of London Bridge station, as part of the Government's £6.5 billion Thameslink Programme, which is due for completion in 2018. This franchise will ensure continuity of service during these complex works, to protect passengers from unnecessary delays and disruption.
The new franchise will deliver:
More than 95,000 extra seats across the network, including 1,000 extra seats on Southeastern's High Speed services every day;
Improved connections between London, North Kent and East Kent thanks to a new hourly high-speed service via Gillingham, Ramsgate, Dover and Ashford;
High speed services calling at Snodland, Martin Mill and Walmer for the first time, along with extra high speed services for Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate
A peak-time Hastings Business Express service providing faster journeys into London, saving up to 10 minutes on the current journey times.
New direct services between Maidstone East and Blackfriars, and between Sheerness-on-Sea and London Victoria
Extra evening and weekend services between Dartford and London Victoria
A commitment to work with TfL to roll out Oyster acceptance to Dartford and Swanley, and to introduce Oyster on the high speed service between St Pancras and Stratford International.
David Brown, Chief Executive of Go-Ahead, which runs Southeastern, said:
"We're looking forward to delivering these plans and are wholly committed to improving performance and services for customers and our local communities. New managing director David Statham will be joining next week and will lead the company through this mission. We're proud of our team at Southeastern and know they're ready to take on the challenge of supporting our customers through the major Thameslink upgrade work."
In order to improve satisfaction and security for passengers, Southeastern will invest in new digital display screens at key stations. There will also be more passenger facing staff who will be equipped with tablets so they can pass on service updates and journey planning advice as required. CCTV monitoring will be extended and The EyeWitness service, which allows customers to instantly report anti-social behaviour, will also be improved.
In addition, more than 300 trains will be refreshed, including toilet upgrades and accessibility improvements on some trains, self-service ticket machines will be installed at more stations with ticket gates at Swanley and Staplehurst, and opening hours at Cannon Street station will be extended so the station is open for 21 hours a day to accommodate additional services.
The contract is the seventh direct award to be delivered by the Department following the re-launch of its franchising schedule in March last year. It is in line with the recommendations by industry expert Richard Brown's independent review into rail franchising.