THE STOCK EXCHANGE has been told that the international arm of Dutch Railways, Abellio, has won the new Greater Anglia franchise, beating off competing bids from Go-Ahead and Stagecoach.
The present operator National Express had failed to be shortlisted.
Abellio already runs the Merseyside and Northern franchises as 50/50 joint ventures with Serco, but Greater Anglia is the first British rail franchise which it has won single handed.
The company said it was 'delighted', and that it would now be working towards a 'seamless' transfer from National Express on 5 February.
The new contract will start on 5 February and run for just 29 months, to bridge some potential clashes in the Department for Transport's timetable.
The former transport secretary Philip Hammond had announced in August that the future Greater Anglia franchise would be extended by 12 months, to run from February 2012 to July 2014, because of changes to the renewal dates of East Coast and Thameslink (currently First Capital Connect).
The transport minister Theresa Villiers said: "The terms of the contract the Government has agreed with the winning bidder will deliver a series of improvements for passengers during the 29 month franchise.
"These include providing better station and ticket facilities and measures to improve passenger information. A text messaging service to keep passengers informed if service disruption occurs will be introduced. New information desks will be provided at major stations including London Liverpool Street, Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich and Stansted Airport."
There have been calls for franchise operators to give more details about their performance, including line-by-line statistics, which were fuelled by a controversy earlier this year when Southeastern's average performance was only just over the level at which it would have been obliged to pay compensation to season ticket holders.The government has responded to these calls, because Ms Villiers continued:
"To date, only overall figures for the performance of the franchise as a whole have been published. From the start of the new franchise, Abellio Greater Anglia Limited will start publishing a break down of punctuality figures by route giving passengers more transparency over the performance of the lines they use. The reliability requirements for the new franchise are also more demanding than the previous one."
She concluded: "When the franchise is renewed again in July 2014, the contract is expected to be 15 years in length. This forthcoming franchise will provide the opportunity to seek further improvements for passengers. We also intend to draw on the work of Sir Roy McNulty in setting the terms of the franchise with the aim of reducing costs and improving efficiency."