There is a bidding program in process for the next South Eastern franchise, with the official DfT Invitation to Tender (ITT) – which details the DfT minimum requirements and expectations – due to be issued very soon. The length of the new franchise has not been ascertained, but is anticipated to be around 10 years.

There are three remaining preferred bidders: Go-Ahead Group, Stagecoach, and a consortium headed by Abellio. A collaboration of local user groups have had detailed, separate, constructive, discussions with all three contenders. We have majored on the following topics:

The necessity of bringing HS1 servicers to the Hastings & Bexhill area for economic regeneration. Operationally this might only impact the latter years of the new contract, but it would require earlier input from infrastructure and financial aspects.

Reducing journey times on and retaining the existing routes to London termini via either Tonbridge or Gatwick

Improved connectivity and communication between different operators at key interchange stations such as Hastings, Warrior Square and Ashford Int’l

Disabled access at stations, noting that the DDA impacts the railways from 2020

Short-period acceptance of tickets between alternative transport modes during unplanned disruption

Alternative termini, variation and extension of routes as might be practical

Where bidders raised other aspects we have responded as best as possible. We have agreed to have second meetings with all contenders once the ITT has been issued and the bidders have finalised their respective plans.

Bexhill Rail Action Group

St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement

Ore Transport Group

Marshlink Action Group

Three Oaks and Winchelsea Action on Rail Transport