Legal action against Department for Transport over East Midlands Abellio contract

Rail operators Arriva and Stagecoach are reported to be taking legal action against the Department for Transport over the award of the East Midlands rail network to the Abellio.

As previously announced, Abellio was the successful bidder to operate the East Midlands Railway franchise on April 10 – making it responsible for delivering new trains, smart ticketing and more frequent services for passengers from August 2019.

From August 2019, Abellio, which signed the deal for eight years, will oversee the introduction of brand-new trains, entirely replacing the existing intercity fleet with more reliable and comfortable trains. Passengers will benefit from an 80% increase in the number of morning peak seats into Nottingham, Lincoln and St Pancras.

However, two rail franchises: Stagecoach and Arriva are both reported to have taken legal action against the Department for Transport over Abellio’s contract.

Stagecoach has stated that the DfT breached its statutory duties over East Midlands, where it was the operator before the contract was handed to Abellio.

In early May, the government banned Stagecoach from the East Midlands, South Eastern and West Coast franchises after the company lodged bids that breached rules on underwriting pensions for rail staff.

Arriva’s bid for the East Midlands line was also disqualified by the DfT for being “non-compliant” – meaning the Dutch firm Abellio was the only bidder left for the East Midlands.

An Arriva spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we are seeking to obtain more information relating to how the bids for the East Midlands franchise were assessed.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “We do not comment on legal proceedings.

“However, we have total confidence in our franchise competition process and will robustly defend decisions that were taken fairly following a thorough and impartial evaluation process.”