Rail franchise handover marks start of £1.2bn investment

The Arriva Rail North and First TransPennineExpress rail franchises were launched at Manchester Piccadilly station this morning, as the new operators promised a removal of outdated trains, and newer and more frequent services across the North.

When the Government awarded the two North of England rail franchises in December last year, it promised that £1.2bn would be spent 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 was previously operated by Northern Rail, owned by Serco-Abellio. The TransPennine Express franchise went to incumbent First Trans Pennine Express.

Proposed improvements in the North West include more trains into Manchester and Liverpool at peak times, newer trains for Bolton and new services into Scotland.

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 The operator will oversee the complete removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacers by the end of 2019, introduce more than 2,000 extra services each week, and will invest £400m in 281 new air-conditioned carriages.

In January, Arriva signed the contract with Spanish train manufacturer CAF to deliver the network’s new rolling stock to replace the unpopular Pacer trains.

In total there will be 281 new carriages with the first of the new trains delivered by October 2018. The deal will be financed by Eversholt Rail Group.

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.

Both contracts will be managed by a joint team from Rail North, which represents the region’s 29 local transport authorities, and the Department for Transport.

Rail unions RMT, ASLEF and TSSA have held rallies in stations across the North today in protest against the award of the franchise to Arriva, due to it being a subsidiary of German state-owned Deutsche Bahn. RMT said that there was a risk that Arriva would use profits made in the UK to subsidise its operations in Germany.

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