UK rail minister Jo Johnson has announced the Department for Transport (DfT) has published the invitation to tender (ITT) for the next East Midlands franchise.
He said the next operator will be required to introduce a brand-new fleet of bi-mode trains, improved compensation for delays, smart ticketing, high-quality wi-fi, more frequent and increased capacity on local services and services that start earlier and finish later.
In addition, Johnson added that better performance and reliability on the franchise will be delivered through a new partnership between the next operator and Network Rail.
Around £250,000 of annual funding for community rail partnerships will be made available and there will be a Stations Improvement Fund.
Johnson added: “We are investing in the biggest upgrade to the Midland Main Line since it was completed in 1870.
“We expect the next operator to unlock the unrealised potential while building on its stable foundations.”
Currently there are three firms in the running to operate the next franchise from August 2019: incumbent operator Stagecoach, which has run the route as East Midlands Trains since 2007, Abellio and Arriva Rail. A First Group-Trenitalia withdrew from the bidding process in April to focus on its bid for the West Coast Partnership franchise.
The DfT has also published the consultation document for the CrossCountry franchise, signalling the start of a 12-week public consultation.
Arriva CrossCountry’s contract to operate the franchise is set to end in late 2019, though this can be extended by up to a year.