Rail franchisees named

Two new franchisees for the Northern rail networks have promised to oversee a £1.2bn boost to services.

The operators have promised 500 new carriages and 2,000 extra services with room for 40,000 more passengers.  The franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds by the Department for Transport and Rail North – an organisation representing 29 Northern authorities.

Arriva will take over the UK’s second largest franchise, Northern, from Serco-Abellio in April 2016 for nine years.  The TransPennine Express franchise transfers from First Group/Keolis to First Trans Pennine Express, also next year.

Longer trains and extra services between Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield are promised, plus a £400m investment in new carriages.  A £55 million investment in stations is also featured.

Both franchisees will continue to roll out electrification and better wi-fi access, while the unpopular and outdated Pacer trains will be phased out by 2019.

Mike Cartwright of West & North Yorkshire Chamber commented:

“The Chamber had lobbied for franchises that support growth so the proposed investment in rolling stock and stations, etc is welcome.  Northern Rail will be understandably disappointed but rail travel has never been more popular and so the competition for franchises must be intense.  We would like to see more services into and out of Bradford – not only east-west but north-south aswell – and this is what has been promised by the Government and the new operator.  We’ll keep a watching brief on the performance and investment plans of the new franchisee and look forward to working with them as required.”

More details on today’s announcement can be found on the government website here.