| Press Release - 13 April 2010
WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has endorsed the call by local Parliamentary candidates Sir Alan Haselhurst and Mark Prisk for local rail users to be given at least as much consideration as people travelling to and from Stansted Airport by rail.
SSE believes that this simple principle should command all-party support and is therefore writing to all local Parliamentary candidates asking them to declare their support for a fairer deal for local rail users.
The issue has come to a head at this time because 120 new 'Electrostar' rail carriages are currently on order for the region and the present intention is to give priority to the Stansted Express by replacing all its existing rolling stock with the new Electrostar carriages and lengthening these trains from 8 to 12 carriages.
Since it takes ten trains to operate the present Stansted Express timetable on a 15 minute service frequency, this proposal would see all 120 new carriages allocated to the Stansted Express, leaving none regularly available for local commuter rail services between Cambridge and Liverpool Street, other than during off-peak hours and at weekends.
There is however scope for a re-think. The Department for Transport is currently looking for a new train operator to replace National Express from next April and is asking for views on what priorities should be set for the new operator. Sir Alan Haselhurst and Mark Prisk have written to Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport, arguing for greater priority to be given to local rail users and for a fairer allocation of the 120 new Electrostar carriages.
The proposal to lengthen the Stansted Express and give it priority access to all the new carriages comes despite a 25 per cent decline in the number of airport passengers using the Stansted Express service over the past four years. In addition - and against all logic - up until 2005 the Stansted Express service was two trains per hour (in each direction) and mostly these trains were only four carriages long, whereas today the service frequency is four trains per hour (in each direction) and the trains now mostly eight carriages long.
Options for providing local rail users with a fairer share of the benefits of the new Electrostar carriages - which are taxpayer funded and cost £1.3m each - include:
* Increasing the number of Stansted Express services which stop at Stansted Mountfitchet, Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth.
* Ending the dedicated Stansted Express service altogether. This would enable faster and more frequent services to and from all the stations on the main line between Cambridge and Liverpool Street.
* Returning the frequency of the Stansted Express to two trains per hour in each direction. If it were to be lengthened to 12 carriages, two trains per hour would provide more than enough capacity.
* Postponing the lengthening of the Stansted Express to 12 carriages until enough new carriages are available to replace the old rolling stock on the Cambridge to Liverpool Street line as well as the Stansted Express rolling stock.
SSE Campaign Director Carol Barbone commented: "In an ideal world there would be enough new carriages to modernise the rolling stock on the Cambridge to Liverpool Street services as well as the Stansted Express trains. However, it could be ten years before that can be achieved and so in the meantime there needs to be a fair basis for allocating these 120 new Electrostar carriages. Stansted Airport mustn't be allowed to be the cuckoo in the nest, grabbing all the spoils at the expense of local commuters - particularly now that the second runway proposals are looking ever more doubtful."
Ms Barbone continued: "Someone's got their priorities wrong if they think it's more important to give Ryanair and Easyjet's customers the most modern and comfortable trains whilst leaving hard working local commuters to put up with 30 year old rolling stock for years to come."
SSE is encouraging everyone with an interest in the local train services to respond to the current Department for Transport 'Greater Anglia Franchise Consultation' which closes on 19 April 2010. See here for more information and links.
NOTES TO EDITORS
A copy of the letter sent by Sir Alan Haselhurst and Mark Prisk to Lord Adonis, Secretary of State for Transport is available here
Further details about, and statistical references/sources for, any of the figures quoted in this release are available from SSE upon request.
Carol Barbone, Campaign Director, SSE: M 0777 552 3091 & firstname.lastname@example.org