A new rail franchise is expected to create major improvements to business travel across the North and into Scotland. In December the Department for Transport confirmed its appointment of UK transport operator FirstGroup as the winner of the seven year Trans Pennine Express franchise, running intercity rail services across Northern England and Scotland. The new franchise, which will begin in April, will deliver a £500 million investment over its lifetime leading to more trains, more seats and quicker services. TransPennine Express Managing Director designate Leo Goodwin said these upgrades will greatly benefit business customers who need to stay connected and productive during their journey. “Many stations across our network already have WiFi available, but this will be expanded under the new franchise, with all of our trains providing a free internet connection by July 2018. We’ll also see 220 brand new intercity state-of-the-art carriages added to our rolling stock, meaning around 75 per cent of our trains running across our network will be new.
“The service and environment of our First Class carriages will also be enhanced under the new franchise, while catering and entertainment options will improve across the network. We will introduce new media streaming services on board- meaning customers can stream movies, tv and news to their own tablet or mobile for free. All these changes will greatly enhance the customer’s experience and journey.”
The new franchise will lead to a 55 per cent increase in connectivity between the major cities of the North and Scotland and will provide much needed additional capacity with more than 13 million extra seats a year. By December 2017 new intercity trains will run between Liverpool and Newcastle, while six TPE trains will run every hour between Manchester and Leeds. Mr Goodwin said the new franchise will deliver an increase in services across the North, helping to connect local businesses. “Improving the rail network and increasing connectivity will allow businesses to share skills and ideas across the North. This is essential in helping to boost economic development in the North. Improvements in the rail network have a huge role to play in building a Northern Powerhouse, and our new franchise will deliver on those plans.”