Pledge on Sheffield-London rail link

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EAST Midlands Trains has pledged not to abandon its Sheffield to London franchise despite financial problems as it launched extra carriages on commuter routes.

The Government has agreed to give East Midlands Trains a subsidy after it lost £1m a week over the first six months of 2011/12.

It followed lower than expected passenger growth set against payments to the Government fixed when the economy was buoyant.

Managing director David Horne said: “We took the decision to seek Government support to protect services to passengers. The Government is effectively giving a partial rebate of what we pay them although we are still giving them more than the amount we are receiving back. We have incurred losses since early 2010 but the worst is now over.”

GNER and National Express, which both operated the East Coast line through Doncaster, gave up franchises due to financial difficulties.

Mr Horne spoke as he launched extra carriages on his company’s route from Sheffield to Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool, doubling most services to four carriages.

He said: “We have experienced passenger growth of double figures on the line since the start of our franchise in 2007 and the extra coaches will be a big improvement.”

Mr Horne said the next big change will be a further eight minutes cut from Sheffield to London journeys from December 2012, once work to increase speeds is completed.

Meanwhile, train operator Northern has launched an extra 50 carriages.

There will be 300 extra seats on three services between Sheffield and Retford, 225 on five services between Sheffield and Leeds, plus 100 more on a Doncaster to Sheffield service.

Rob Warnes, performance and planning director, said: “We have experienced 38% passenger growth since our franchise started in 2004. Sheffield is an important growing city on our network and the extra seats will enable people to get to work more comfortably.”