Winchester & Chandler's Ford MP Steve Brine met with Alliance Rail today (Tuesday 13th December 2016) to discuss their bid to run a new service from Southampton to London Waterloo.
The company is making a bid to the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) for a non-franchised 'open access service' that will serve Winchester. Open Access services sit alongside, and as an addition to, the main route franchise. The Southern Western franchise is itself currently up for grabs and either Stagecoach (South West Trains) or FirstGroup will win that contract which is due to be announced in April 2017 for changeover in August 2017.
If approved, the proposals will deliver competition on the route for the first time and Alliance Rail is promising cheaper fares (by one-third), flexible ticketing which allows the splitting of peak/off-peak fares, new and improved seating plus next generation wi-fi which they promise works better than anything currently on the route. The additional service would run some 18 trains, out of a total 1600, each day.
Any new trains would start on the route in December 2017 with an off-peak service every 2-hours via a 5-car 330 seat carriage. Under the plans, December 2018 would see a peak service added with 10-car 660 seat trains. Alliance Rail will submit their full bid to the ORR this month, December 2016 and expect a decision by Spring 2017.
Steve Brine said; "This could just be the best kept secret in the rail industry and, while we should not get carried away at its impact, any new capacity coupled with cheaper fares would be extremely welcome. The key decision for the regulator is whether they are satisfied additional services can be added to the route without compromising safety or the existing service.
"I welcome the bid and found the discussion with Alliance Rail a breath of fresh-air. Their claim is that they can bring new fast trains between Winchester and London and provide lower fares, more seats and better passenger choice. That is absolutely worth exploring."
The company already operates an open access service, known as Grand Central, on the East Coast Mainline.
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