The Government this morning awarded the two North of England rail franchises with a promise to spend £1.2bn on improvements to services over the next 10 years.
The Northern franchise was awarded to Arriva Rail North, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn. The franchise is currently operated by Northern Rail, owned by Serco-Abellio. The TransPennine Express franchise goes to incumbent First Trans Pennine Express.
Proposed improvements in the North West include more space into Manchester and Liverpool at peak times, newer trains for Bolton and new services into Scotland.
The Department for Transport said in a statement: “More than 500 brand-new carriages, the removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains, room for 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times, and more than 2,000 extra services a week will be delivered across the North.”
The franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds by the Department for Transport and Rail North, which represents 29 local authorities.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We promised passengers in the North West a world class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality – and I’m delighted that we have found two operators that will deliver exactly that. As a one nation government we are committed to closing the economic gap between north and south. This deal, and the joint management of the franchises, will bring the Northern Powerhouse to life.
“In 2004, the last time these contracts were awarded, the government did not plan for growth – today we’ve put that right.
“Arriva Rail North Limited and First Trans Pennine Express Limited went far beyond our requirements with exciting, ambitious plans that will make a real difference to customers, and – coupled with our commitment to push ahead with electrifying the vital Transpennine route – will help the region realise its full economic potential, ensuring it has a modern 21st century transport system. This is fantastic news for the north west.”
Cllr Sir Richard Leese, chairman of the Association of Rail North Partner Authorities, and leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Passengers were clear that they wanted to see a transformation including a lot more new, better, trains running more regularly with a step change in services provided off-peak and on Sundays. They also wanted improvements to stations and changes to make ticketing easier – and thanks to all the partnership work by Rail North and the Department for Transport, that’s exactly what we are able to announce today.
“This is another crucial move towards devolution for the North. Rail North will now play a key role in the management and development of both new franchises, providing an excellent platform for further development and full devolution in the future. Rail North will work very closely with Transport for the North to drive forward economic growth by developing visionary proposals to deliver radically improved connectivity across the north.”
Arriva Rail North will run the Northern franchise from April 2016 until March 2025. The operator will oversee the complete removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacers by the end of 2019, introduce more than 2,000 extra services each week, and will invest £400m in 281 new air-conditioned carriages.
First Trans Pennine Express Limited will operate services on the TransPennine Express franchise – which runs intercity services across the region and into Scotland – from April 2016 until March 2023. They will bring in 220 new carriages, equivalent to 44 trains, providing fast 125mph services across the network.
During the franchises, the government and Network Rail will also forge ahead with electrification of the Transpennine line to deliver faster journey times and significantly more capacity. Network Rail is currently developing a detailed plan for the work which, when finished, will provide a fully electrified route between Liverpool and Newcastle. The work is expected to be completed in 2022. The operators will also support the roll out of Oyster-style smart ticketing on public transport across the north, backed by £150m of government funding.