ABFLY have warmly welcomed the announcement that after 20 years of campaigning, services on the Abbey Line are finally to be extended past the current closing time of around 10pm.

On 3rd December it was announced that London Midland had been successful in securing a new ‘Direct Award’ contract which means that they will be continuing to operate services until at least October 2017.

The new contract will add an extra daily return train on the Abbey Line, 7 days a week. Still to go through the timetable planning process, it has not yet been confirmed until exactly what time the service will now operate, but London Midland have confirmed that, “it will run later than the current last train”.

This is the first tangible success for ABFLY in 20 years of campaigning, and goes some way to right the wrongs of 1995’s decision to withdraw the last three trains of the day, it was claimed due to ‘anti-social’ behaviour. ABFLY believe that the reinstatement of these services will once again make the line a viable proposition for people wanting to use it for evening leisure purposes or for working late. Of course, there is some way to go yet to fully reverse the cuts of 1995 – namely another two trains to get back into the timetable!

Also welcomed in the Direct Award announcement were investment in extra cleaning of trains (specifically on the Abbey Line), an increase in London Midland’s contribution to the Community Rail Partnership by £10k, and most remarkably of all, subject to surveying, all remaining stations on the branch will get new ticket vending machines and the existing two will be upgraded. This latter initiative should go a long way to tackle ticketless travel, which inconveniences passengers, loses the line hundreds of thousands of pounds per year, and significantly undermines the case for investment.

As well as the late night services, much of what has been achieved through this announcement can be directly attributed to the lobbying actions of ABFLY and our members / supporters when we responded to the government’s Direct Award franchise consultation over Christmas 2014. This just shows the value of responding en masse to consultations. A similar situation occurred in summer 2015 when we organised a major response to Herts County Council’s Rail Strategy Consultation. This succeeded in getting ‘Guided Bus’ overthrown and a new focus on what can be done for the line in the short to medium term (see www.abfly.org.uk/2015/11/mps-and-county-council-unite-behind-rail-for-abbey-line).

Another consultation for the main ‘contested’ West Midlands franchise, which will run for 7-10 years and follow on after the Direct Award in October 2017, is due to begin in mid-December. This will be potentially the most important of them all. It will also be our last big chance for at least the next decade to secure significant investment in higher frequency services, further late night trains, possible through running, better rolling stock and improved facilities for passengers.

Political support for all of these initiatives is already growing, but most of all we NEED YOU to join our campaign! The more paid members on our books, the stronger is our collective voice. Membership costs only £5 per household per year with discounts for taking out longer subscription lengths. Subscriptions can be purchased online by visiting: www.abfly.org.uk/join

You’ve seen what can be done. So please don’t delay – join us today!